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Smokers turn to new program

November 17, 1998

Nicotine cessation programBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photogrpaher




After seeing his 3-year-old daughter pretend to smoke candy cigarettes, Keith Sawyers of Hagerstown decided it was time for him to quit.

"She mocks me with them. It makes you feel bad," said Sawyers, 37, who works in the Washington County Hospital's maintenance department.

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On Tuesday, Sawyers attended a nicotine cessation program held at the hospital to prepare people for the Great American Smokeout on Thursday.

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Sawyers was not alone.

Angela Rowe, 32, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said she doesn't want to feel tired anymore and wants to avoid the bronchitis she gets every winter that seems to linger perhaps because of her half-pack- to pack-a-day habit.

Rowe's supervisor at the hospital's behavioral health services department on Northern Avenue, who attended the class last week, recommended the program and convinced Rowe to give it a try.

Another smoker, Richard Derr, 62, has diabetes and has had heart bypass surgery. He has gone without cigarettes for up to two years, but started smoking again after a family tragedy.

"I'm ready to try to do it. I'm afraid I don't have any other choice," said Derr, of Hagerstown, who was accompanied by his wife, Nancy.

"I just want to see him quit. He's been through a lot," she said.

They're putting their faith in a fairly new program developed by Dr. Dan McDougal, medical director of Antietam Health Services Inc. in Hagerstown.

The program abandons the scare tactics of some other stop smoking classes, said Julie Burke, case manager.

Instead, it treats the problem as an addiction rather than a simple habit. It explains the addiction and gives the smokers nicotine patches and anti-depressants to help them make it through their withdrawal.

"We're not going to beat you up," Burke said. If there's a relapse, she or another case worker will help the smoker set a new date for quitting.

Nicotine is second only to cocaine and heroin in its addictive powers, said Burke, who gave up cigarettes about six months ago.

"I was a lot like you," she told the class.

The hospital will probably offer the program again in a month or two. It's free for Washington County Health System employees. Others must pay $10 and the cost of the medications, but no one will be turned away, said Deborah Addo, disease management director at the hospital.

Addo challenged other employers to offer similar programs to their employees as part of the Healthy Communities 2000 initiative.

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