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Still tempted at times, but smoke-free after five years

November 19, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

It's been five years since Angie Rowe committed to stop smoking, and while her old habit still is tempting, she's still committed.

"I'm still hanging in there," she said.

The Herald-Mail has been following Rowe's progress since she quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout of 1998. She took advantage of a smoking cessation class offered by Washington County Hospital - her employer - to finally quit. Thoughts of quitting had nagged her for about six months, she said.

Being tobacco-free "changes your whole way of life," Rowe said.

The first result was improved health. She said her energy level is up and she's breathing easier since she kicked the habit. Though she was suffering from bronchitis Monday, she said it's the first time she's had it since she quit. When she smoked, she could count on bouts of bronchitis every year, she said.

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"When you're smoking, illnesses just linger and linger and linger," she said. But when she quit, "everything I wanted to happen happened," she said. "I just know I feel better."

Rowe, 38, of Falling Waters, W.Va., found her life changed in other ways, as well. For one thing, she's saved a lot of money.

"I don't even know what (cigarette prices) are now," said Rowe, who smoked a little less than a pack a day. "I always had money for a pack a day."

In addition to saving the cost of cigarettes, "my dry-cleaning bill went down drastically, too," Rowe said, now that she doesn't need to have the scent of smoke removed from her clothes.

Now she spends the extra money on her children, she said.

There are times, however, when she's tempted to smoke, especially when she's stressed.

"Sometimes I miss it," she said. "I won't lie to you; sometimes when I feel stressed, I'll go to a room where there's been smoking and get a whiff of that second-hand smoke for a hit."

But when she's tempted to light up, "I think about the consequences - and the price," she said.

She had some advice for people who want to stop - and for others who wish their loved ones would.

"Just don't hound them," she said. "You can't make them. They're not going to quit until they're ready."

And when they do, she said, "Support them. Don't say 'I can't believe you bought another pack.' It's hard to quit."

To smokers trying to quit, she said, "Go public - just tell everybody that you can. Cut back and tell everybody." Knowing other people were watching helped keep her accountable and committed, she said.

So do prevailing attitudes. "I remember doing temp work and we sat at our desks and smoked," she said. "Now it's not socially acceptable."

Ultimately, it's an individual's responsibility to quit, she said.

"It still ticks me off when I hear about these lawsuits against the tobacco companies - they didn't put the first cigarette in your hand," Rowe said.

Though it was hard to quit, Rowe said she has no regrets.

"None at all. Not even about going public. I've had people say they quit because of the articles" about her decision, she said.

"If you're even thinking about (quitting), there are avenues through the hospital and the health department to quit smoking," she said. "Check 'em out."

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