Everyone knows that smoking is dangerous, unhealthy and increasingly costly. It continues to be this country’s number one cause of preventable death. Approximately one of every five deaths in the U.S. is related to smoking, killing approximately 439,000 Americans each year. Overall medical costs to treat smoking-related illnesses in the U.S. amount to nearly $100 billion each year.
The good news, though, is that more and more people are quitting – only about 20% of U.S. adults continue to smoke, which is about one-half of the rate in the 1960’s. In fact, more people in the U.S. have quit smoking cigarettes than the number that continues to smoke: so quitting can be done.
The WCHDprogram is unique because it moves past the WHY people should quit and emphasizes HOW to quit. It focuses on issues like: making a plan to quit; identifying your smoking triggers; dealing effectively with the emotions and stress of quitting; and, adjusting your behaviors to deal effectively with ending your smoking habit and maintaining more healthy behaviors over a long period of time.
“This program is highly structured, offering a systematic approach to quitting, and focusing on behavioral change. Also, the program teaches participants how they can maintain these new, healthier
behaviors for long-term success,” said Larry Didier, Tobacco Programs Coordinator for the WCHD. To help with the physical addiction to nicotine, the program offers free or very low-cost nicotine replacement products such as patches, gums and lozenges. These products complement the behavioral goals of the program. They greatly enhance the program’s overall effectiveness and directly address the physical addiction and the habit of smoking.
A registration fee of $35 is requested, but is not required from those who cannot pay. If a participant quits smoking by the end of the seven classes, their $35 will be returned to them. “More than 145 people in Winnebago County have participated in the program since early 2010, and nearly three- quarters of them report being tobacco-free weeks and even months after they have completed the program,” added Didier. A large number of these successful ‘quitters’ have asked that their fees be retained by WCHD to help more people quit smoking. The support participants receive from one another in the class is a primary key to their success in quitting smoking.
Financial support for this program comes from a grant received from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and from the fees generated by the program.