Free program helps tobacco users quit

Quit dateBy Tamera Manzanares

For more than 50 years, local resident Margrit has played tug-o-war with cigarettes. She’s repeatedly quit smoking, only to be pulled back into the habit while coping with stress. “When life threw me a curve ball, I went out and bought cigarettes,” she said.

Last fall, Margrit decided to tackle quitting again but this time with support. She enrolled in the Tobacco Free Program at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and worked with a Tobacco Cessation Counselor to understand the nature of her nicotine addiction and ways to combat its powerful pull. She credits this support for helping her remain tobacco free for more than two months. “I’ve gained a lot of freedom and relief,” she said. “I’m not being run anymore by physical or emotional addiction. I have tools now to deal with it.” Tobacco Free program classes will be starting again in Steamboat Springs and Craig in January.

A person’s body becomes dependent on the physical effects of nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, needing more and more as they continue smoking. Nicotine reaches the brain quickly, causing pleasant feelings that distract smokers from stress and encourage a continuous physical and mental/emotional urge to smoke or use tobacco. Nicotine dependency makes quitting very difficult; only about 4 to 7 percent of smokers are able to quit without support. The Tobacco Free Program, comprised of six, one-hour classes, addresses the complex mental and emotional factors involved in quitting. It helps participants make behavioral changes that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive state-of-mind, diverting them from routines and thinking that lead to smoking.

The program does not encourage quitting cold turkey, but empowers participants to set goals for tapering off their habit and setting a quit date. They prepare themselves through a “soul searching” process exploring the role tobacco plays in their lives, including situations and moods that trigger cravings. They learn to use stress management and other strategies to replace tobacco as a coping mechanism. The program setting allows participants to bounce ideas off each other about ways to distract themselves from wanting to smoke. If a person normally smokes a cigarette with their coffee, they might switch to tea. Maybe they decide to walk their dog instead of sitting down for a cigarette first thing in the morning. “That helped me a lot – looking at what triggers my urge to smoke and how I react to that,” said Margrit, who has found cigarette cravings often subside after a brisk walk or play session with her dog. “I remove myself from the situation causing me to want to smoke.”

Upcoming Tobacco Free classes:

Steamboat Springs:  Noon – 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 6 – Feb. 10 at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101. To register for the class or talk to a Tobacco Cessation Counselor, call 970-871-7338.

Craig:  11 a.m. – noon Thursdays, Jan. 15 – Feb. 19 at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Craig, 745 Russell Street. To register for the class or talk to a Tobacco Cessation Counselor, call 970-871-7696.

The Tobacco Free Program is led by a Tobacco Cessation Counselor, who will provide an individualized tobacco assessment for each participant when they register. The Tobacco Cessation Counselor may work with a person in conjunction with the class and follows up with participants’ progress after the class. It’s recommended participants register and take all six classes in the Tobacco Free series, but drop ins also are welcome.

Other support options include free, personalized phone support through the Colorado QuitLine: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. SmokefreeTXT provides tips and encouragement for young smokers trying to quit: Text QUIT to IQUIT (47848).

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