Make a FreshStart

Quitting tobacco is the single best thing you can do to help improve your health. Simple, right? Not necessarily so. Addiction to nicotine, one of the more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco, is one of the hardest dependencies to quit. Truthfully, there are some people who can quit tobacco all at once (cold turkey). More commonly though, on average, it takes most people more than five quit attempts to finally beat an addiction to tobacco.

The good news is that there is a lot of help available to support smokers and those using smokeless tobacco when they are ready to quit. In Vermont, you can choose from several different types of support. The state website, 802quits.org, offers accurate information on tobacco and nicotine and advice on proven methods for quitting. Those who call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) can set up personalized phone support and consultations. Or tobacco users can choose to attend a local Fresh Start group for help.

The Vermont Blueprint for Health offers free Fresh Start group classes throughout Bennington County and in Windham County. The American Cancer Society developed the class curriculum and the class is led by a Vermont tobacco treatment specialist.

In the Fresh Start class you’ll learn about addiction and why it has such a hold on you; about possible withdrawal symptoms and how to deal with them; dealing with stress and life’s ups and downs without tobacco; setting a quit date; and staying tobacco-free for good.

The location, days, dates, and times for the four-week Fresh Start classes in the area vary. A class is held every month at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington and you must preregister to attend. Next month’s class at SVMC will run from 4 to 5 p.m. April 6 – 27.

All of the above support options offer some free nicotine replacement: nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges. There also are other choices to support you in quitting. They are available through your medical provider and include the medications Chantix and Wellbutrin, a nicotine inhaler, or nicotine nasal spray.

Your health care provider and local Vermont quit partner/tobacco treatment specialist can help you decide which support is best for you. The decision should be based on your health history and current health and how you wish to approach quitting tobacco. It is important to note, however, the studies do show that attending a group class along with some type of nicotine replacement is the most effective way to quit tobacco for good.

Tobacco products are consumer products that, if used as directed, are known to be harmful to your health. Of the 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, 43 are known carcinogens and at least 250 of them are harmful to one’s health in other ways. Some of these chemicals include the poison arsenic, the solvent benzene, and formaldehyde, a chemical in paint that is also used for embalming. Smokers also inhale amounts of carbon monoxide, a colorless, poisonous gas. Smoking takes years off your life and the Surgeon General has called it "the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths."

Quitting tobacco is something you can take control of and that will noticeably improve your health. When you quit, you’ll feel better, smell cleaner, and be able to take charge of your health. Your risks for certain diseases will decrease within the first hour of quitting and continue to decrease as your time without tobacco increases.

Pre-registration is necessary for any Fresh Start class. Call or email me at drue@phin.org or 802-440-4098 to find out more and to register today. Can’t make the SVMC class time or dates listed above? Call anyway to find out when and where other classes are scheduled for and for more information about the other alternatives available for help with quitting. Don’t miss out on your chance to get the support you need to truly make a “fresh start.”

Eileen Druckenmiller is a Vermont Quit Partner and Tobacco Treatment Specialist and the Blueprint for Health Self-Management Regional Coordinator. “Health Matters” is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.