Melissa Wick doesn't know how many times she tried to quit smoking before she finally broke the habit she began at the age of 18.
The Lawrence woman tried hypnosis, acupuncture and other methods often advertised as cures for nicotine addiction.
"What finally worked for me started with the desire to not smoke," Wick said. "I kept telling myself anytime I was tempted, 'Why would I want a cigarette? I am a nonsmoker.'"
Finally, at the age of 36 - 20 years ago - Wick smoked her last cigarette.
The American Cancer Society is hoping more people will follow Wick's example and stop smoking. That's why the society is touting today's 30th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout, a day when the American Cancer Society urges millions of smokers across the country to give up their cigarettes for a day and perhaps for a lifetime.
In Kansas, about 18 percent of adults are smokers and more than half are seriously considering quitting smoking within the next six months, according to the society. Moreover, 29 percent of high school students report using one form of tobacco and 21 percent of high school students report smoking cigarettes.
It is not easy to quit smoking, said Dr. Charles Yockey, a physician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who teaches classes about how to quit.
Each time a group of 100 people tries to quit, 95 percent of them fail, he said. Those who want to be among the successful 5 percent have to figure out how serious they are about quitting.
Gram for gram, nicotine is more addictive than heroin, he said.
"It's a pretty serious addiction," Yockey said. "Life is one big habit, and smoking is one of those habits."
When Wick was kicking her habit she even dreamed about smoking.
"That was really weird," she said. "Some people don't remember their dreams but I remembered mine. This went on for 10 years."
In September, LMH banned smoking on hospital grounds.
The ban has worked well, said Belinda Rehmer, LMH spokeswoman. If visitors are seen smoking outside, they are informed of the policy and given a card for a free cup of coffee in the hospital's cafeteria.
"They are almost always very gracious, and we have not had any problems," Rehmer said.
More about the Great American Smokeout
- Letter: How I quit smoking for good with no relapses
- Letter: Just quit smoking
- Letter: You need motivation
- Letter: Persistence needed
- Share your stories of quitting smoking (11-15-06)
- Callit quits: The Great American Smokeout starts Thursday (11-13-06)
- LMH to offer smoking cessation activities (11-09-06)
- Great American Smokeout
Louise Thrift, 59, is one of the hospital employees who stopped smoking just before the ban took effect. About once every three weeks, however, she still might take "a couple of puffs" off of a relative's cigarette, she said.
"It hasn't been too bad," Thrift said. "I just stay really busy at work. At home I read more and I spend more time with my family."
Smoking cessation is the single most important thing a person can do to improve overall health, Yockey said.
"We see more smoking-related illness than any other thing," he said. "If we could just fix the smoking problem, we would reduce the cost of health care by 50 percent."
When quitting smokers are tempted to light up a cigarette, health experts say they should take deep breaths, call a friend or go for a walk. They also should drink a lot of water and change their routines to avoid situations that have led them to smoke in the past.
"It takes 30 days of constant work to break any habit," Yockey said. "If you think like a smoker you will continue to smoke."
Tips to help you give up cigarettes
The American Cancer Society offers the following tips to help smokers get through the day, or any day, without cigarettes: ¢ Prepare for life as a nonsmoker by removing all ashtrays, cigarettes, cigarette butts and matches used to light up from your home and office; it will help avoid temptation. ¢ Smoking urges are worst during the first two weeks. After that, they are most likely to recur in situations associated with smoking. For example, after dinner or in the car. ¢ Urges last a few minutes at most, so practice the four Ds: Take deep breaths, do something else to get your mind off the craving, drink a lot of water and delay reaching for a cigarette because the urge will pass. ¢ Try to avoid situations that encourage smoking. If you can't, practice telling people you've just quit or that you're a nonsmoker. ¢ Change your routines. If you always light up when you have coffee, drink tea or juice instead. If you have always smoked while watching the evening news, read the paper. ¢ Use the tools available. Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are available over the counter; nicotine nasal sprays, inhalers and smoking-cessation medications are available by prescription. Access resources such as the Kansas Tobacco Quitline at (866) KAN-STOP or the Web site www.greatamericansmokeout.com. ¢ Most smokers have to try several methods before they succeed in quitting, so keep trying until you find what works.