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Program to stop smoking planned

Sunday, May 29, 2005

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SIKESTON - If you really want to quit smoking, here's another chance.

The Scott County Health Department and Missouri Delta Medical Center are holding a stop-smoking clinic which begins with a "Thinking About Quitting" session at 6 p.m. on June 6.

"The program is called 'Freedom From Smoking,'" said Brenda Freed, health educator for the Scott County Health Department. "It's a program from the American Lung Association."

Including the introductory meeting, the entire clinic consists of eight sessions. "It's a seven-week course and we meet once a week," Freed said.

Meetings will take place at the health department's offices at 102 Grove Estate Court located directly off North Main in Sikeston near the First Church of the Nazarene.

The program is not limited to Scott County residents - anyone in the area interested in quitting smoking may register and attend. "There is a $30 fee and if you complete the course as an incentive you get $15 back," Freed said.

Freed said there are some who are able to quit cigarettes and never look back but it is not so easy for the majority of people. "For most who have tried to quit it is very hard," she said. "Those who do quit usually don't quit the first time they try to."

The Freedom From Smoking clinic is based on the premise that in addition to being an addiction to nicotine, smoking is a learned habit. Quitting, then, is a process in which individuals must consciously unlearn the automatic behavior of smoking they have taught themselves over the years and substitute healthy new alternatives.

Quitting is carefully planned out for participants as individuals. "You don't come in the first day and just throw your cigarettes away," Freed said. During the clinic participants schedule a quit date and then work toward achieving their goal of quitting by that date using a step-by-step method. "It's usually around the third week," she said.

Professionally-trained instructors help smokers create a supportive environment to break the smoking addiction. "We determine what is an important reason to quit smoking and we give them facts about tobacco," Freed said. "The tobacco companies target a variety of people to use their products - in the past they've used cartoon characters to target our children. At the present time they're targeting high school graduates and college-age kids. People try tobacco products and are addicted to the product before they are aware of it."

As a group is involved, the program offers more than just guidance from instructors. "It kind of works as a support group, too, to help them in kicking the habit," Freed said.

While the program focuses on behavior changes instead of trying to scare participants into quitting by citing health hazards, the effects of smoking on not only their health but the health of others are worth considering as reasons to quit smoking.

"It's important, for one, for their overall health and, two, for those that are around the second-hand smoke: 53,000 Americans die every year from illnesses related to second-hand smoke," Freed said.

To register for the clinic or for more information call Freed or Jan Barkett at the Scott County Health Department at 471-4044.