Educator ready to help smokers kick the habit

November 20, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Aynsley Anderson, community education coordinator for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, is a certified smoking cessation educator. For those wanting to quit, she can offer advice on how to get started, why people don't succeed and pharmaceuticals that might be useful. She also can offer tips on how nonsmoking friends and family can help.

Moderator:

I would like to welcome Aynsley Anderson, a certified smoking cessation educator, to the newsroom. Thank you for being here and answering questions in celebration of the Great American Smokeout. I am Karrey Britt, health and environment reporter, and will be the moderator.

Aynsley Anderson:

Thank you Karrey for inviting me. Today is an important day and I really hope that many smokers will consider "butting out" for at least today.

Aynsley Anderson:

There are many resources available to assist the stopping smoker and I am happy to provide some answers and support while I am here.

Moderator:

Here's a question from a reader: I am a former smoker, and I think one of the things that makes smoking attractive is its socializing aspect -- of going out for a smoke and talking with your co-workers or friends for a brief visit. What advice do you have for people in handling that loss of that interaction as they try to quit?

Aynsley Anderson:

It is true that smoking can be a very social event and it is a big loss for many people when they have to give up interactions with fellow smokers at coffee or lunch breaks or even socializing in the evening. There are many non-smokers who are probably eager to be friends. Invite one of them to go for a walk during your break or to grab lunch. Many smokers want to quit and sometimes need a little push to do it or someone to quit with them. Consider recruiting a smoker in that category to quit with you and then maybe you can walk, shop visit or eat together at your breaks.

Moderator:

If someone wants to quit smoking, what's the first thing they should do?

Aynsley Anderson:

My advice would be to take their time and not to rush into it without putting a fairly detailed plan in place. Consider whether you wish to use prescription medications such as Chantix or Zyban to assist you. Those require some time to start working so a visit to a doctor a couple of weeks in advance of your quit date would be needed. Nicotine replacement products are also an option for some. A plan needs to address three aspects of smoking - physical addiction, psychological reliance and the habit. We recommend smokers "tapering down" to smoking 10 or less cigarettes in the days before their quit date. That way their physical withdrawal from the nicotine will be significantly lessened. Keep a smoking diary for at least a week prior to quitting so you can start to track when and why you smoke. A lot of cigarettes are linked with certain behaviors (drinking coffee, driving,) and it helps to become aware of what behaviors may trigger your need to smoke. Then you can "uncouple" those links. In addition, quitting smokers need to develop and start daily practice of an alternate stress management skill. When one hits a rough patch (and we all do), smoking will not longer be an option. So having a back-up stress coping mechanism is essential. Examples might be exercise, deep breathing, meditation, talking with a supportive friend and more.

notnowdear:

Can you suggest another manner in which employees can network if they quit smoking?

Networking within a company is so important and strongly prevents extra-departmental conflict.
Networking is the glue that holds companies together and helps keep morale up.

How do you replace that networking outside smoking that is so important in helping others understand and empathize with the issues in other departments?

Aynsley Anderson:

I totally agree that networking with coworkers is vital to job satisfaction and morale. Find a group of supportive non-smoking coworkers and invite them to join you in an activity during break or after work. Talk to your HR department about possibly having a support group for folks who are quitting smoking. Also consider holding a stop smoking class on-site. There are likely other folks in your workplace that would like to quit but don;t want to do it alone. These people can be your best allies. Try not to have a work environment where it is them against us (ie nonsmoker vs smokers). This of course, does not lead to a cohesive and happy environment. Many nonsmokers would like to provide support to those quitting. Make sure you let them know you are open to that.

Moderator:

Here's one from a reader: What do you tell people who say they'd rather shave 10 years off their lives
than quit smoking?

Aynsley Anderson:

That is difficult especially when it is someone near and dear to you. People will not generally quit until they themselves are ready. So all of the nagging in the world often does not do much other than sometimes make them smoke more. It has been my experience that it is often a precipitating event that finally leads many smokers to quit. These might be birth of a child or grandchild, personal health issue or the health issue of someone they know who smokes. For others it might be the cost of cigarettes or not being able to smoke in the house. There are several stages in the quit process. Precontemplation means they are thinking about it but not nearly ready to move forward. Contemplating means they are seriously ready to quit and put a plan in plan. Just being available and supportive until the smoker is ready to move forward with a quit plan (contemplating) is the best thing to do. Many smokers will quit if their physician tells them to. Enlist the help of your healthcare provider as your allie in this.

xbusguy:

I quit smoking for 14yrs then started back up. I remember gaining a ton of weight, and being very irritable when I quit smoking. I want to quit again, what advice do you have to address the weight gain, and mood factor?

Aynsley Anderson:

It is true that some weight gain is inevitable for many quitters. Nicotine is involved in "revving"metabolism. The average weight gain is about 6 lbs. I tell folks to deal with one problem at a time. Get the smoking (which is much more hazardous to your health that 15 or 20 extra pounds) well behind you and then you can work on the weight issue next. When you quit, stock the house with low-cal, low-fat snacks. Stay away from chips, cookies, candy and other munchies like that. Drink lots of water and walk, walk, walk. Walking helps to expand the lungs and clean them out plus deal with any of the cravings. So planning to step up exercise is essential. As far as mood, again nicotine does "mess" with your brain chemistry including your mood center. This will improve with time. Encourage your loved ones to "hang in there" and be supportive. Practice some stress management skills such as relaxation. Be kind to yourself and consider delaying a plan to quit at a verystressful time in your life. Exercise also helps people be more "even". In addition, there are many prescription meds that are available short-term should you neeed additional assistance. Good luck! You are doing a wonderful thing for yourself and giving a great gift to your family and other loved ones.

gdiepenb:

Does it seem like people who want to quit smoking are usually older than 30? Do you deal much with people 29 or younger who picked up smoking and are trying to stop? Does a certain age group tend to have more success with quitting compared to others?

Aynsley Anderson:

That is quite often the case. Often adults in their 30's are settling down with a family. Having a child can be a huge motivator for someone to quit smoking, and rightly so. Many of the younger people, especially those who are single, and in their 20's may be spending much of their social time in environments where there are a lot of other smokers. Many people also pick up the habit in college. The other large age group that I personally work with who are trying to quit are seniors. Many of those folks are now experiencing a health issue and are very motivated to try to quit. In general, age does not seem to matter as far as quit success. It is more how serious one is about actually quitting. I just worked with a lady who smoked for over 70 years and has now been quit for 3 years and so proud of herself.

sandrat7:

I've been smoking for 30 years. It's such a habit!! I tried the patch 15 years ago, but had terrible nightmares and stopped using it. I don't like the idea of medications. How do I start to quit?

Aynsley Anderson:

Good for you for keeping after this. Eventually most smokers are successful at quitting. I tell people that each time you quit and relapse you learn something. Then you can "plug up that hole" and not make that same mistake again. Eventually there are no holes left to plug and you have done it!
Many of the newer nicotine replacement products have little side-effects. There are now nicotine inhalers, lozenges, gum as well as patches. There are also great success rates with Chantix, the new prescription med out there. However no medication does address the habit part. And that is essential. As I noted earlier, it is essential to put a plan in place and to take your time and not rush into it. Try to cut down on your cigarette consumption to 10 or less per day before your quit date. Keep a smoking diary so you can start to learn what triggers your smoking urges. And find and start practicing a stress management technique that you can rely on in future instead of smoking. I would be happy to send anyone more information by mail. My e-mail address at the hospital is aynsley.anderson@lmh.org. Drop me an e-mail with your information and I can send you all kinds of tips to help you be successful. In addition, the KDHE Kansas Quitline is a wonderful free source of information and support. Their phone number is 1-866-KAN-STOP. Best of luck; you can do this!

bambi:

How do you reconcile the idea that smoking looks so cool?

Aynsley Anderson:

I usually tell people to look into the future and see what they look like if they continue to smoke a few years down the road. Generally smokers "age" much more quickly than nonsmokers. Having a face full of wrinkles, a yellow tinge to your skin, bad breath and stained teeth, and unable to walk very far without being short of breath is definitely not cool! In addition to the usual diseases that most people are aware of that smokers can get (ie cancers, heart disease etc), half of male smokers over age 40 will have problems with impotence, and female smokers go through menopause on average 2-3 years earlier than non-smokers. Both smoking women and men have higher rates of infertility. Women who are pregnant and smoking (or exposed to second hand smoke) have much higher rates of miscarriage and premature birth. Plus the effect second hand smoke has on others particularly children is sobering. High rates of SIDS, asthma, ear infections, allergies plus more.

Please know that more people think smoking is not cool than those who think it is cool. Associating with those folks may help someone realize that smoking is not cool.

Moderator:

Tell me about the free class that LMH is offering tonight to help smokers kick the habit. What can participants expect?

Aynsley Anderson:

It is a two hour class where we address all the aspects needed to successfully quit. We cover the physical addiction, habit and psychological reliance and how to manage each of these. We also discuss the medications and nicotine replacement products should someone choose to use those. We do ask that folks enroll in advance so that we have enough handout material available for all attendees. People can do that by calling our enrollment line, LMH Connect Care at (785) 749-5800 or logging onto www.lmh.org and going to Education and Classes tab.

Moderator:

I would like to thank Aynsley for coming in today to answer our readers' questions.

Aynsley Anderson:

Thank you for having me. I am happy to talk with people by phone or e-mail in the future should people want more information. My e-mail is aynsley.anderson@lmh.org or they can call me at (785) 505-3066. We offer the Stop Smoking class on a quarterly basis and the next one will be January 6th. Also as I mentioned earlier, the Kansas Quitline is a wonderful resource and I highly recommend that people contact them for more information or support. 1-866-KAN-STOP. Thanks again!

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