Resolutions up in smoke

For some residents, kicking cigarettes is tough to do

If past smokeouts are any indication, as many as one-third of the nation's 46 million smokers didn't light up cigarettes Thursday.

Craig residents Sybil Sch--medeke, 28, and Sage Murphy, 31, weren't among the abstainers.

Thursday was the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers are encouraged to quit smoking or at least cut back for a day.

Still, on Thursday morning, the women sat in the Village Inn Pancake House smoking unabashedly.

"I have to have something to do with my hands," Schmedeke said. "Plus, you have to want to quit, and I don't want to quit. Cigarettes are a stress-reliever. I like the taste and smell of them."

Past failures

The Craig women are among the more than 70 percent of smokers who say they want to quit, but are discouraged by past failures and the psychological addiction.

Schmedeke has smoked for more than 10 years. Her one attempt at quitting lasted one month.

"I think I was the grouchiest I've ever been in my life," she said. "A friend lit a cigarette, and I told her if she didn't give it to me I'd beat her up."

According to the American Cancer Society, only 5 percent to 10 percent of smokers successfully quit on any given attempt.

Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guide books and the encouragement of friends and family members.

Still, only about one in seven smokers reports having tried any of the recommended therapies during his or her last quit attempt, according to the American Cancer Society.

"Stop smoking aids are more expensive than cigarettes," Sch--medeke said.

She said she used a patch that released nicotine into her blood stream at a steady rate, though it was less than what she was getting from cigarettes.

Harder than heroin?

The goal of the patch is to help smokers overcome the psychological addiction to smoking before they battle the physical addiction, manufacturers say.

Schmedeke said she was constantly chewing on a sucker, her tool for keeping her hands and mouth busy.

Murphy's personal best quit was for eight days.

"Cigarettes are harder to quit than heroin, I've been told," she said. "The first five days are really bad."

Colorado QuitNet members call the first week of nonsmoking "hell week," which is accompanied by cravings, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

The Web based forum advises those in the beginning stages of quitting to:

  • Change habits that you associate with smoking.
  • Keep busy.
  • Keep your hands and mouth occupied.
  • Leave the table as soon as you finish eating.

Local programs

Local efforts to help smokers kick the habit vary.

Craig Middle School students have formed a group "Get R!eal," which stands for Resist! Expose Advertising Lies. The group focuses on prevention.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has a Tobacco Prevention Program, but it's in transition. A new coordinator will begin work after Thanksgiving.

Local pharmacies are handing out free "quit kits," provided by the association. They include a stress ball, pencil and information about quitting.

Anyone who wants help to quit smoking should call the Colorado Quitline at 1-800-639-7848, where counselors are available to help.

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