Hanging up the habit
How to get help
The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line number is 1-800-Quit-Now/784-8669. Spanish speakers can call 1-877-266-3863, and the TTY line is 1-877-777-6534.
The line is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and callers can leave a message during all other times.
For more information, visit www.ctri.wisc.edu/quitline.
More smokers in Rock County may be finding reasons to quit. Kyle Geissler reports.
Since quitting smoking, Susan Flood feels better.
Her house and plants are cleaner.
Her clothes smell fresher.
"I love it," said Flood, 51, who had smoked since high school until quitting six years ago.
Now, the smell of a smoker in public catches her attention.
"I'm going, 'I smelled like that?'" she said.
Both her parents smoked, and her father died of throat cancer while her mother died of lung cancer. Before she decided to quit, Flood was smoking two-and-a-half packs a day.
"I was getting to the limit where I was waking up in the middle of the night and (needing a cigarette)," she recalled. "That's when I knew I hit rock bottom."
Flood is among thousands of Wisconsin residents who have quit smoking using the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line, which logged a record number of callers last year.
In Rock County, the number of residents calling leapt 530 percent from 2007 to 2008, said Kate Kobinsky, coordinator of the Quit Line at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention in Madison. In 2007, 138 county residents received services from the Quit Line, while that number jumped to 869 last year.
It was the perfect storm, Kobinsky said.
An increase in the cigarette tax went into effect Jan. 1, 2008, more public places became smoke-free and the Quit Line expanded its services to include a free, two-week starter kit of quit-smoking mediations, she said.
Rock County ranks 69th out of the state's 72 counties and the city of Milwaukee for the highest percent of adult residents—28 percent—who smoke, according to the 2008 County Health Rankings. The state average is 20.9 percent.
Now is one of the most popular times of year for people to try to quit.
Smokers make a New Year's resolution to quit, but despite all the advancements in treatment, the most popular way is to quit cold turkey, said Dr. Douglas Jorenby. Jorenby is a professor of medicine at UW-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health, home to the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.
"We know that's not an effective way at all," he said. "A lot of people start out that day (Jan. 1), then two to three days after New Year's, hit the worst of withdrawal, then start scrambling for help."
Both Kobinsky and Jorenby say people wanting to quit will have the best chance if they combine counseling with medications.
Take advantage of the resources through the Quit Line, they say. It's all free and provides a coach to develop a quitting plan, a kit sent to your home that includes two weeks of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges and arranged calls from your coach.
That coaching is what helped Flood change her habits.
Her morning would start with a cup of coffee and a cigarette at the table. Her coach emphasized changing the habit, so she had her cup of coffee in her bedroom, looking out the window.
"I had to totally change it (routine) with the help of the Quit Line, otherwise I wouldn't have known enough to do it," she said.
Dr. Adedapo Oduwole, an adult psychiatrist at Mercy Options in Janesville, said smokers need to replace the nicotine by addressing their behavior. He suggested these tips to quit:
-- Make a bet with yourself or a family/friend, then reward or punish yourself. If you set a goal of not having a cigarette in three months, put the money you would have spent each day in a jar. Do that every day, then reward yourself when you reach your goal by buying something you couldn't afford before. Punish yourself if you slip up by giving the money away, then start toward the goal again.
-- Surround yourself only with friends who respect your decision to quit. If a friend who smokes respects you, he or she will not smoke around you, he said.
"That's one of the pitfalls that most people have," he said.
-- Be prepared for a weight gain. Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so quitters should increase their exercise and watch their diets.
Above all, experts stressed that quitting takes practice.
"It's not a one-stop deal," Oduwole said. "You have to have a plan, execute it; even if for any reason you relapse, that doesn't mean you're a failure. It just means you have to do it again."
Quitting is very rarely something that a person succeeds at the first time, Jorenby said.
"For most people, they're going to make several—between three and five—quit attempts before they get to the one that sticks," he said. "It's not a personal failing, it's a learning process.
"Don't give up on yourself, this is not an easy thing to do."