KINGMAN - Sometimes, quitting isn't easy. Bob Asbury, 49, from Kingman knows that. He's been smoking cigarettes since he was 9 years old. He quit last year for 10 months and then started smoking again in November. In January, he set up a program to quit through the Arizona Smokers' Help Line, or ASHLine.
"It's very difficult," he said. "They say it's more difficult than trying to quit drugs."
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 compared to 18 percent of Arizona men, according to the department. Low-income residents are also more likely to smoke than other income levels, he said.
"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. Tobacco kills around 6,000 Arizonans annually, he said. Out of those 6,000, approximately 1,000 never smoked.
Smoking costs the state about $1.3 billion in healthcare costs and $1.7 billion in lost productivity, Tormala said.
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 and Tormala's department can help.
The ASHLine provides not only information about the harmful effects of smoking, but free information on how to set up a quit-smoking plan, telephone and Web-based counseling from former smokers to help quit, calculators to determine how much you are spending on tobacco and how much you are using and access to nicotine replacement therapies such as gums, patches and medication. The whole project is funded through the state tobacco tax. All information provided to the line by a smoker is kept strictly confidential.
"There are certain times of day that are harder for me than others," Asbury said. "That first cigarette of the day is the one I want the most."
The ASHLine has been extremely helpful, he said. "My case manager has been wonderful. They're very easy to talk to and they don't make you feel badly about slipping up."
They have lots of good ideas about how to avoid slipping up, Asbury said. His favorite tricks are exercising, eating, brushing his teeth, watching TV or doing some other activity to take his mind off the craving for a cigarette. The free nicotine replacement lozenges he got from the ASHLine have helped as well, he said. "When I do slip up, I try to concentrate harder on quitting," Asbury said.
Tormala recommends smokers interested in quitting set a quit date. Counselors at the quit line recommend picking a date that is important to you - an anniversary; birthday or special occasion - so that you can remember the date and have an incentive to quit. Throw out tobacco materials after setting your quit date, stay active and avoid places where people smoke, he said.
He also recommends getting outside help from family or friends or the ASHLine. Tobacco users who work with the ASHLine or have support from friends and family are five times more likely to quit.
When those cravings for a cigarette hit, Tormala recommends trying to delay lighting up as long as you can, try drinking a glass of water or juice instead of smoking or distract yourself with another activity.
Tormala's department isn't just focusing on those who are trying to quit. They're trying to stop people from using tobacco in the first place.
"We have a new series of ads aimed at youth," he said. The ads show the sinister addictive side of tobacco and include a link to an interactive Web site, Venomocity.com, where kids can roll over and click on items that light-up, float and make noise in a room. Every time a kid clicks on one of the items it takes them to a new Web page that has facts and information on tobacco use. The ads are playing mostly during children's TV programs and on cable channels devoted to children.
"Most people are unaware of the extent of marketing by the tobacco companies," Tormala said. In Arizona, tobacco companies spend about $40 in marketing their products compared to every $1 of tobacco tax revenue spent by the state on tobacco education and quit-smoking programs.
Most kids, like Asbury, start smoking at an early age, Tormala said. A child who has at least one parent that smokes is 50 percent more likely to start smoking then a child whose parents don't smoke, he said.
"The sooner we can get to them, the easier it will be for them to quit or never start smoking," Tormala said.
For more information on the ASHLine, call (800) 556 - 6222 or visit, www.ASHLine.org. For more information for kids on smoking, visit www.venomocity.com.
Do you want to quit?
Set a date to quit.
Make a list of reasons why you are quitting and post it somewhere you will see it on a daily basis.
Make a plan to quit. Call the ASHLine for help. Figure out what you will do when the cravings hit.
Throw out your tobacco products.
Surround yourself with support. Tell friends, family and coworkers you are quitting.
Avoid places where others smoke or you are likely to light up.