Originally created 11/21/02

Groups lead day to help smokers stop



The biggest barrier to quitting smoking might be in your head, a smoking cessation expert said. And Thursday might be the day to find out as area health care providers join with the American Cancer Society in the Great American Smokeout.

The groups push smokers to drop the butts for a day and many go on to quit for good, said Cheryl Wheeler, the coordinator of the Jernigan Cancer Center at University Hospital, who also leads smoking cessation classes.

"Cold turkey" with behavior modification is the most effective method of quitting, but it only works about 30 percent of the time, Ms. Wheeler said.

"We have things to help with the physical addiction to nicotine - the patch, the gum, the inhaler, (prescription drugs) Zyban and Wellbutrin - but I think it is the psychological, habitual part of the smoking that is the hardest to break," she said.

That success rate almost doubles when behavior modification is combined with nicotine replacements or with prescriptions, she said.

Many smokers use this day as their excuse to quit, Ms. Wheeler said.

"They need something concrete and they can say, 'OK, this is going to be my quit day,"' she said. "I have seen people quit and be successful with this being their jump start to it."

The benefits of quitting - and of keeping kids from starting - are unmistakable down the line, said Martha S. Tingen, a professor of nursing at the Medical College of Georgia.

"The way we are going to make the biggest impact on cancer, in the state of Georgia especially, is to get people to stop smoking and to prevent people from ever starting," said Dr. Tingen, who is leading a tobacco-prevention effort in 27 sixth-grade classrooms throughout the state.

SMOKEOUT EVENTS

There are a number of events around Augusta to mark the 26th annual Great American Smokeout to encourage people to quit smoking:

  • Smoke Free, Lunch Free, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. outside the Wal-Mart on Bobby Jones Expressway. Smokers who turn in their pack of cigarettes get a free lunch and information on quitting.
  • The Cold Turkey Luncheon will be held at Fort Gordon in the Victoria Room at the Gordon Club from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets cost $5.95.
  • Between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of University Hospital, smokers who turn in a pack of cigarettes will be registered for a raffle for a free turkey dinner.
  • The Medical College of Georgia will have smoking cessation materials and a quit pledge in the lobby of the Ambulatory Care Center from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Experts from the cancer center will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second floor of the hospital.
  • Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.