November 14, 2011
Many brave smokers will put their cigarettes down for the Great American Smokeout this Thursday and maybe even longer.
“Yuma has the lowest smoker rates in Arizona, and we could conclude that those who do smoke are among the most addicted, the remaining are hardest to reach, which means that the people who do smoke need a lot of help,” said Christina Borrego, spokeswoman for Arizona Bureau of Tobacco Education & Prevention.
“They need to know how to do it right,” Borrego noted.
In support of employees and community members who will quit for at least that day, Yuma Regional Medical Center will hold a special celebration in the cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hospital officials hope to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for one day and set a long-term plan to quit permanently.
“People have probably tried to quit but weren’t successful so what we’re doing at YRMC is encouraging them to try again,” said Apryl Brand, project coordinator for the hospital’s Smoking Cessation Project.
Although the Great American Smokeout celebration at the hospital is primarily focused on employees and their families, the public is welcomed.
Starting on that day, the hospital will start a smoking cessation support group from 5-6 p.m. at YRMC Cafeteria Dining Room A. It’s open to anyone interested in receiving help to quit tobacco use. Counselors trained by the American Cancer Society will be on hand.
“Research shows that support groups can influence someone’s health care a great deal,” Brand said. “They might meet someone at the support group, someone they can call when they need to and give each other encouragement.”
The Smoking Cessation Project has been meeting for a year to decide how to roll out a program. Members decided to do it in three phases: educating patients, helping employees and starting a support group.
The patient program will roll out soon, but the group has decided to kick off the employee program and support group on the day of the Great American Smokeout.
“We’re not there to condemn or coerce, just support people in their desire to quit,” Brand said.
As a chemotherapy nurse, Brand has seen the effect smoking has had on patients and their families.
“I have seen the sadness to families whose member have been diagnosed with lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),” she said.
“And then there’s second-hand. It smoke shows up as asthma and pneumonia in people who use tobacco and their children. People need to do this primarily for themselves and then their families.”
Brand noted 700 Yumans are diagnosed with cancer each year and that 30 percent of all cancer deaths come from tobacco use.
Statistics also note that smoking costs about $195 billion in annual health care costs and lost productivity in the workplace.
In addition, the American Cancer Society indicates that 87 percent of lung cancers are attributed to smoking. Tobacco-related diseases affect 443 Americans and are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S.
“Now that’s a lot of people,” Brand said. “We hope to cut down those numbers so people can live a healthy life.”
She noted the challenges in quitting. “Cigarettes have a lot of chemicals, hazardous, toxic chemicals, that are added to addict people physiologically and psychologically. People have told me it’s worse than cocaine and alcohol.”
She’s also perturbed with the rising popularity of smokeless tobacco, which allows smokers to get their nicotine fix while working in smokeless facilities.
On a recent trip to Circle K, an employee told her he regularly uses smokeless tobacco at work.
“As a nurse, I just had to tell him (about the risks). I don’t meant to preach, but I have to educate people. It’s part of my oath to do no harm and educate people.”
She also worries that “kids are probably using this and their parents don’t even know it.”
The Smoking Cessation Project hopes to educate people about the risks associated with all types of tobacco use, including cancer of the mouth, throat, bad teeth and bad gums.
The group is working closely with the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline — http://www.ASHline.org — which offers personal coaching, prescription medication and free over-the-counter items such as nicotine gum, lozenges and patches to help smokers quit.
In addition, most insurance plans, including the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) covers medication.
With the hope that many smokers will quit for the Great American Smokeout and beyond, Brand offered a piece of advice to nonsmokers.
“We need to go easy on people trying to quit. Their nerves are on the line. We need to support them by understanding that they are going through a lot.”
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (928) 539-6856.