County to help some smokers kick habit

May 22, 2001

County to help some smokers kick habit


Washington County smokers will have a chance to kick the habit with the help of free nicotine patches, which will be available through the Washington County Health Department starting in June.


To receive the patches, smokers must attend a four-week anti-smoking class held by the Health Department, said Nell Stewart, who administers the Health Department's Stop Smoking for Life program.

The free classes run from June 4 through June 28.

Stewart said she knows first-hand that quitting isn't easy but said the patch can help.

The patches wean those who want to quit smoking by providing them with decreasing amounts of nicotine after they have given up cigarettes, she said.


"It allows people to break the habits associated with smoking" and eases withdrawal symptoms, she said.

Participants, who must be over 18, will receive patches each week for a six-week period, she said.

The free patches are available through a $10,000 grant from the state Tobacco Restitution Fund, said Stewart.

Stewart estimated that 22 percent of Washington County's 131,923 residents are smokers.

Those who both use the patch and attend the Stop Smoking for Life group instead of just relying on the patch double their chances of quitting," she said.

Since the Health Department began sponsoring the anti-smoking class in 1995, about 700 people have participated and about 40 percent successfully quit, she said.

Those wishing to quit can attend classes twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. or from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. People can register by calling the Health Department at 301-791-3034.

Because she is a former smoker, Stewart said she teaches the classes from a position of experience.

The class discussions include motivation, nicotine, addictions and health, she said.

Most people come to the classes for health reasons such as a persistent cough, chronic bronchitis, poor circulation and shortness of breath, she said.

"It's when they realize these are health problems that aren't going to go away," said Stewart, who said she lost her father and two uncles to nicotine-related cancer.

Stewart warned that smoking while wearing nicotine patches is not advisable and can cause health problems.

Breaking the habit is one of the hardest things a smoker will do, said Stewart.

"Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances there is - more so than heroin. A pack a day is equal to 200 hits of nicotine," she said.

In addition to health benefits, those who quit will save money because they will no longer have to buy cigarettes at a cost of about $3.25 a pack, she said.

"We ask people to set aside what they would have spent on cigarettes at the end of six weeks to see how much adds up," she said.

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