Smokers offered a helping hand

Free eight-week class starts Tuesday at KRMC

KINGMAN - Stopping smoking is probably one of the most popular New Year's resolutions in America - and one of the hardest to keep.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 700,000 Arizonans use some type of tobacco, which includes chewing tobacco as well as cigarettes and cigars. Approximately 16 percent of Arizonans smoke, according to ADHS. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 21 percent of Americans smoke.

The largest number of smokers in Arizona are between the ages of 45 to 54 years old, according to ADHS. Men are more likely to be smokers than women. Approximately 14 percent of Arizona women smoke as compared to 18 percent of Arizona men, according to the department.

"People know what all the health risks are to smoking or using tobacco," said Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease Chief Wayne Tormala. But quitting is far from easy, he said. Many tobacco users will make between eight and 10 attempts to quit smoking.

Those who have been able to quit by themselves have done so, but tobacco is an extremely addictive drug, Tormala said. Seven out of 10 people still smoking today want to quit but can't do it without help. That is where the ASHLine, a free smoking cession hotline, and the Mohave County Tobacco Use Prevention Program come in, he said.

Through funding and help from the ASHLine, MCTUPP offers free smoking cessation classes to the public. All a resident has to do is call (888) 454-4924 to sign up for the classes, said Chris Callaway from MCTUPP. The classes meet for one hour at 6 p.m. every Tuesday for eight weeks at Kingman Regional Medical Center. The next class starts Tuesday. She said she welcomes all who want to attend, even walk-ins.

The classes focus on ways to prepare to stop and ways of dealing with the stress, addiction, habit, cravings and possible weight gain related to quitting, Callaway said. The classes provide a needed support system. She recommends that those wanting to attend the classes bring a friend. It's easier to walk into a room full of strangers if you bring someone with you, she said.

MCTUPP can also provide two weeks of free stop smoking aids such as gum, lozenges and patches.

"It's very hard to quit. It's both an addiction and a habit," Callaway said. The classes focus on both issues and try to get smokers to make small changes to their habits in order to make it easier to quit.

For example, most smokers have their first cigarette of the day with a cup of coffee in the morning. Callaway encourages people who are trying to quit to move their coffee cup to the hand that holds their cigarette.

"This gives that poor, lonely hand something to do," she said.

She also recommends that people hide their cigarettes in one room, their lighter or matches in another. This forces people to get up and either search for the items or move through several rooms to get to them, which gives them enough time to try and delay until their cravings pass, she said. People can also try to distract themselves by doing something else when a craving for a cigarette comes upon them.

She also recommends people reward themselves for the small victories in the journey to stop smoking. For example, a new DVD when they cut back the number of cigarettes they smoke in a day.

But people have to want to quit, she said. You can't be trying to quit because someone else told you you need to quit. It won't work, Callaway said. However, it is never too late to quit, and just because you didn't succeed the first time doesn't mean you should stop trying, she said.

She had an 87-year-old man who did not speak English and had been smoking since he was 7 come to her classes and try several times before he was finally able to quit. Callaway encourages people to come to the class as many times as it takes. She even has people who have quit return to her classes for a support boost.

For more information on being smoke-free in 2011, visit ASHLine.org or call (888) 454-4924.