Smoke is no joke

By Alesha Russell
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE,

Imagine being stressed out after an argument or receiving bad news. People use different vices to calm them down, but according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, 20.9 percent (approximately 1.4 million) adult North Carolina residents use smoking as a stress reliever. Over a third of those people will die from lung or throat cancer. To prevent that from happening, North Carolina has Smoking Cessation.

Smokers like Jon Tran would likely be able to quit this costly and deadly habit by calling the Durham County Health Department at 919- 560-7765 to learn about and register for the free Breath of Life program. (Staff photo by Alesha Russell)

Smoking Cessation is a campaign with programs designed for different age groups that help smokers stop by providing preparation techniques, quitting methods and tips to be successful. Durham’s Smoking Cessation has a 92 percent success rate, which is one of the highest in the state.

Sam Polston, a former Smoking Cessation participant for Freedom from Smoking, was a smoker for 45 years. Polston said that the class was a tremendous help in changing lifestyles.

“I can already tell a big difference in my breathing. I worked so hard at home this weekend and had so much more energy, because I could breathe,” wrote Polston in an update to the program coordinators. “I went for my walk this morning and the only thing that bothered me was my legs got tired. Not my breathing!!! It is wonderful and such a great incentive to not pick up a cigarette.”

The American Lung Association has been offering the Freedom from Smoking program for over 25 years.

Shelli Porter is a registered respiratory therapist who has trained by and and has taught classes for Freedom from Smoking for the last two years. Porter is actually a former smoker herself.

“I think that my education and my experience both as an RT and as an ex-smoker have given me a powerful persuasive edge when it comes to motivating people to quit. I love what I do,” said Porter.

Porter teaches classes for groups of  6-16 people free of charge. Participants must commit to attending the required eight sessions.

They go through activities and lessons, where they learn all about the effects of nicotine, how to handle cravings, how to deal with stressful situations as a nonsmoker, and much more.

One of the activities includes acting, which helps members experience different views/effects of smoking by being able to portray all roles besides ‘the smoker.’

They receive free materials and a certificate of completion when they finish all the sessions.

“The classes are full of valuable information and loads of fun,” said Porter.

Jose Lopez, a local NECD resident and former Smoking Cessation participant (no relation to Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez), said that the Breath of Life program run by the Durham County Health Department changed his life.

“The class gave me a chance to learn about the effects of smoking in depth through documentaries and of course facts. There was so much that I learned that could affect not only me but the people around me too,” said Lopez. “What triggered me to really quit smoking was coming to realize that secondhand smoke really kills people. I thought that was like a myth or something.”

“I never heard of Smoking Cessation, but from what it sounds like, it would be great for me when I’m ready to quit smoking,” said Denise Benton, an NECD resident. “Seems like the program has had a good success rate, which is great motivation for a true smoker.”

Benton smokes nearly a pack of cigarettes a day. On average, a pack of cigarettes is about $5.58; therefore, within a week’s time Benton spends approximately $39.06. For a month, that adds up to about $156.

For the same amount of money, she could pay for two mobile phone lines on a shared plan or pay an average electric and water bill combined.

When people choose to stop smoking they save a great deal of money.

According to a document submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 599 additives in cigarettes. The list of ingredients was approved by the U.S. government so every smoker can see what exactly they’re inhaling.

Cigarette ingredients include many acids and oils such as propionic acid and vetiver oil.

Another document from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists 33 carcinogens, or known cancer-causing agents, in cigarettes. This list includes lead.

For more information or guidance you may call the Cessation Quit line for North Carolina at 800-QUIT-NOW or if you are pregnant, please call 866-667-8278.

Also, you can contact Shelli Porter at Respiratory Skills, Inc. by calling (919) 484-1981. You can register for Cessation programs such as Breath of Life by contacting your physician, local hospitals, or the Durham County Health Department.