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Struggling to quit, 'so far, so good'

November 19, 1998

Editors note: This is the first in an occasional series. From time to time, The Herald-Mail will check in on Angie Rowe as she wages her battle against nicotine.




struggling to quitBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Angie Rowe had imagined what her last cigarette would be like. She would kick back in her recliner with the television remote control and an ashtray, quietly enjoying a Virginia Slims menthol.

But when the time came, the night before the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Rowe couldn't savor that cigarette. Her eyes were watering and her throat was scratchy from an allergic reaction to her friend's cats.

"Maybe that's an omen," said Rowe, 32, of Falling Waters, W.Va.

Rowe, who got hooked on cigarettes when she was a student at Shepherd College, had tried to quit before.

She decided to try again when her employer, Washington County Hospital, offered a free class and nicotine patch.

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"So far so good," she said Thursday morning after making it past the time she would have taken a cigarette break in a wooded area behind the hospital's behavioral health services department office on Northern Avenue.

Following advice from the hospital's nicotine cessation class, Rowe put on the nicotine patch before she went to bed Wednesday night.

Her first test of willpower came on the drive to work, during which she usually smokes two cigarettes before arriving at 8 a.m.

When she stopped for coffee Thursday, she bought breath mints instead of cigarettes.

"It really didn't bug me. I played the radio loud and sang my guts out," she said.

At work, where she's a billing and insurance secretary, Rowe was teased by her coworkers, who called her "smoky," and said she was going to become a "poster child" for quitting smoking.

But Rowe didn't appear to be bothered. She seemed happy to be joining the countless other smokers who try to quit every year.

Her husband, George, who has never smoked, is also happy, she said.

Rowe wants to quit for many reasons. She's sick of being tied down by the habit, it makes her feel out of breath and it's an easy excuse to not get anything done in the evening.

Now, she's looking forward to doing cross-stitch and playing on her new home computer, she said.

Not that she thinks it will be easy. She admits she is addicted to the four or five packs a week she had been smoking.

"I know what I'm up against," she said.

Since Nov. 4, more than two dozen people have signed up for a smoking cessation program, free for hospital employees, that provides them with nicotine patches.

The Washington County Health Department also offers free four-week classes. The next session starts Jan. 4, said Assistant Coordinator Jo Ann Kline.

Since 1994 when it started, 500 people have gone through the program. Twenty-five people will mark four smoke-free years, Kline said.

The health department was handing out information from the American Cancer Society at Wal-Mart in Hagerstown on Thursday.

"We don't know how many people will quit today. It can be done. People are doing it all the time," Kline said.

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