Public smoking ban helps high numbers of people to quit

The Jackson Sun
13 October 2008

Marilyn Womack has been a smoker for 30 years. And now, one year after the state's public smoking ban went into effect, she has decided to quit.

"It's been harder now, because I can't go out to eat and enjoy it anymore," she said. "Before I could linger and eat while I smoked, but now I just want to finish so I can get up and go smoke."

The Non-Smoker Protection Act - the state-wide smoking ban - requires all public places, including restaurants, to be smoke-free indoors. The exception to the ban includes businesses that limit access to people ages 21 and older at all times.

This includes restaurants with bars, chain and hotel restaurants.

Womack, 55, said there was some struggle in making the decision to stop.

"I know I needed to quit because of health issues," she said. "But that's easier said than done. All of my friends smoke, so it's been harder to be out with them."

The number of people interested in quitting tobacco use has continued to grow since the ban went into effect last year, said Jennifer Price, tobacco health educator for the state's health department.

"Thousands more have been helped through other cessation services offered through the Tennessee Department of Health," she said.

So far in 2008, more than 5,200 people have called the QuitLine for more information or for assistance with tobacco addiction.

"We are proud of the overall progress Tennessee has made in preventing disease and death caused by exposure to tobacco smoke," she said.

Many places in Madison County have made their entire properties smoke-free, Price said.

"As the tobacco state health educator, I have also been able to establish monthly cessation classes," Price said. "They are held at four different locations on four different days in the month as well an online cessation chat group."

Dennis Williams is the manager of employee health and wellness services for West Tennessee Healthcare. Williams offers services to employees who want to quit smoking.

Interest in improving health is the No. 1 reason why people should stop smoking, Williams said.

"There is a lot of national data out there that says if you smoke, you're setting yourself up for various health risks," he said.

For those wanting to quit, Williams recommends seeking assistance immediately. The state's QuitLine provides a personal coach who will help a person through the cessation process, he said.

"There's always someone on hand they can talk to confidentially," he said. "Someone trying to quit can call in and ask to be talked down from going back."

Another helpful resource is the American Cancer Society, which offers the "Fresh Start" program. Anyone can access guides to quitting from that organization, he said.

At West Tennessee Healthcare, it is not a requirement that all employees quit smoking, Williams said.

"We just want to help employees remove those barriers that cease them from quitting if they want," he said.

Cheryl Vest is one employee who has been smoke-free for six weeks. She decided to quit after realizing her paychecks were immediately spent on gas and cigarettes.

"I got mad that my paycheck went all to one place," she said. "I decided I can't pay it anymore. It was taking food out of my family's mouth."

The decision was hard at first, Vest said.

"Oh, I thought about smoking 15 times a day," she said. "The first two days were just awful. I barely talked to my family. But I just learned to ignore it."

After those first 48 hours, she learned to live with herself, Vest said.

"There is life after cigarettes," she said. "Life goes on. Before I couldn't have imagined it. But I feel so much better now."

Womack said a person who decides to quit smoking has to really want it.

"Medical conditions can't do it for a person - it's a mental thing," she said. "You have to want to quit mentally. Say you're not going to smoke anymore. It cuts down on the cravings."

For her, keeping a toothpick in her mouth helps fight temptation, Womack said.

"My dad gave me the best advice," she said. "He said to keep a box of toothpicks and always put one in my mouth when I feel the urge. And it works."

 Since the smoking ban in Britain, there has also been an increase in the amoiunt of people stopping smoking.  The smoking cessation specialists at The Harley Street Stop Smoking Clinic, can help you give up smoking easily and quickly.   Call to book an appointment with a hypnotherapist to quit smoking with hypnotherapy.
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