New York Respiratory Therapist Discusses Smoking Cessation

2013 Is the Year to Finally Stop Smoking

by Jennifer Lucas RRT-NPS, Coordinator of Smoking Cessation Program, Respiratory Therapist, Northern Westchester Hospital

iStock_0245060_HiRezYes, it feels like we’ve heard it before: Smoking kills. But did you realize puffing a cigarette accounts for one of every five deaths in the United States? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people die from smoking than from HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, car accidents, suicides, and murders combined.

Quitting smoking can do more for your health and longevity than losing weight, exercising, or eating better — though all of those things are worthy goals as well. Still need convincing? Arsenic — that’s rat poison — and acetone, which is in nail polish remover are just two of the 4,000 nasty chemicals that are in cigarette smoke.  I like to start off my class with this, especially to smokers who aren’t yet convinced they should quit.

I find that once people understand what they’re putting in their bodies when they inhale tobacco smoke, they’re much more receptive to kicking the habit. I also talk about quality of life.  Smokers have a really hard time getting over colds, pneumonia and the flu. One of the early benefits to quitting is that your immunity picks up and your body will fight off infections much more easily.

Every day that you’re smoke free equals lower risk of the many hazards of smoking, which include lung cancer, of course, but also prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancers, and heart disease and stroke.  Ten years after quitting, a former smoker’s risk for these diseases matches that of a person who never smoked.

What are her tricks for kicking the habit?  I have participants keep a diary of when they smoke, how often, and what they were feeling when the urge hits. A lot of times, people smoke when they have nothing else to do — like when they’re watching TV or reading the paper. My first step is to get smokers to give up the smoking breaks that only fill space and give the hands something to do.  I have people pick six moments during their day when they smoke and give those up first.

Then we focus on the routines, like a cigarette in the morning with coffee. Participants often say they couldn’t imagine having a morning cup of joe without a cigarette.  Breaking the routine is key. It can be as simple as putting the coffee cup in the hand you usually smoke with, or making a to-do list for the day with your free hand.  Distraction really works.

For times of stress and dealing with withdrawal symptoms,  I believes relaxation techniques — such as deep breathing or meditation — and acupuncture can be helpful. We introduce these concepts in our free program at the hospital.  Whatever method you find for coping, stay with it.  Quitting is difficult, but not impossible.

FREE Smoking Cessation Program

You read correctly: Northern Westchester Hospital offers a free smoking cessation clinic for anyone in the community. You can refer loved ones or sign up yourself. The four-week program meets for about an hour weekly, and I am available through email and phone between classes to help participants conquer their habit.

We teach smokers how to track their smoking, how to grapple with cravings, and techniques and tricks that will keep them smoke-free for the long run. As part of the program, participants learn about helpful integrative therapies such as relaxation therapy, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. They can even provide nicotine patches and gum with a physician’s approval. Everything is totally free of charge – educational tools, nicotine therapy, along with my help and guidance in class and during the week between sessions. Considering the health benefits of quitting, the program is a remarkable bargain.

Staff, patients, family members, and community members are all invited to attend at no charge. Commit to quit, today! Contact Jennifer Lucas a jlucas@nwhc.net or 914.666.1868.

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