Sound off: $8 a pack — one more reason to kick the habit

By Heidi Henson

When asked, most people who smoke or chew tobacco admit that they don’t enjoy it anymore. Typically, the reasons include cost, health, family and friends’ comments and the fact that it’s not socially acceptable.

And yet in Island County, alarmingly, one in four high school seniors smokes as well as nearly 14 percent of pregnant woman. On the cost front, newly implemented tobacco taxes passed in Olympia have now made the average cost of a pack of cigarettes more than $8.

Sometimes, tobacco users imagine being free of these burdens – with extra money in their pockets, taking deep breaths without rattling and wheezing – but they can’t seem to put it down for good. The number one stumbling block is stress, and not everyone knows how to quit. Considering the state’s increased tobacco taxes alone, there’s one more reason to find out.

The good news is that there are more ways to quit than ever before, from support groups to medicines. After helping people kick the habit for 10 years, I know there is one that works for you.

Quitting tobacco is a decision. The rest is about follow-through. You might use medications, nicotine-replacement therapy, physician assistance, support groups, online Web sites, phone counseling or something else.

It doesn’t matter where you start, just as long as you begin. In order to change any habit, you need to create new ones to fill the void. It takes about three weeks to make new habits stick.

And there is help. Throughout the area, there are programs for those trying to quit. Studies show that whatever tactic tobacco users choose, they are much more successful with support.

There might even be financial help. Some health plans will pay for efforts and medicines to help you quit tobacco. The Washington State Quit Line (1-800-QUITNOW and www.quitline.com) offers counseling and some medicines or products for free to the general public, or those on Medicaid and Medicare.

Taking action will give you back your hope, the most important part of quitting tobacco. Many people just like you thought they could never quit, and yet they did. Few people succeed the first time. On average, it takes eight to 11 attempts to quit for life. Keep at it. Try something different, get support and don’t give up. Quitting tobacco is a process that takes time, patience and determination.

Whatever your reasons, there’s never been a better time to quit. In our community we have many free resources to help you. It doesn’t matter how many attempts you’ve made, you can still have success. In fact, all those “failures” were actually practice; baby steps towards reaching your goal of living tobacco-free!

How about starting today? Make the commitment to a healthier you. Reach out to someone to get the help you need. It might be hard to imagine a day without it, but picturing it in your mind can be the first step.

You wake up in the morning and breathe deeply, stretch, get up and go about your routine. You have an extra 15 to 30 minutes in the morning because you no longer have to get your tobacco dosing in to satisfy that morning craving.

You can smell coffee brewing, the flowers blooming and fresh orange juice. Your clothes smell fresh. Your teeth are clean and your breath is fresh. You decide to walk that five blocks to have lunch, your lungs feel great and you have energy.

After work, you don’t rush to your car to get your tobacco fix. You decide to stop at the gym to work out, and you feel strong. You have stamina. At bedtime, you are relaxed because you don’t have to make sure you have enough tobacco to get you through the night and into the morning. You fall asleep at peace.

A day without tobacco is a glorious day without being chained to the addiction. Help yourself or someone you know quit tobacco, whether it be a co-worker, friend, family member or even a stranger. It will change lives in ways you can hardly imagine!

Heidi Henson is the Island County Health Department’s Tobacco Cessation Specialist.

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