Winnebago County Health Department stop-smoking classes start March 31

Staff Report

Thursday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m., the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) will offer its next series of stop-smoking classes for anyone who wants to break this habit. Classes will be held at the new Winnebago County Health Department facility at 555 N. Court St., Rockford, in Conference Room 221. The classes will meet for seven consecutive Thursdays, starting on the 31st and wrapping up May 12.

“This program is highly structured, offering a systematic approach to quitting, and focusing on behavioral change. Also, the program teaches participants how they can maintain these new, healthier behaviors for long-term success,” said Larry Didier, Tobacco Programs coordinator for the Winnebago County Health Department.

The psychological “habit” that most chronic smokers develop around their smoking is often more difficult to deal with than the actual physical addiction to nicotine.

To help with this physical addiction, the program offers free or very low-cost nicotine replacement products such as patches, gums and lozenges. These products complement the behavioral goals of the program. They greatly enhance the program’s overall effectiveness and directly address both the addiction and the habit of smoking.

Tobacco use and addiction continue to the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 440,000 Americans every year—causing one of every five/six deaths in the U.S. Many more millions die on a worldwide basis every year. Approximately 8.8 million people are hospitalized to treat a tobacco-related illness each year in the U.S.

Typically, WCHD staff request a $35 registration fee, but for those unable to pay, the fee can be waived. If a participant quits smoking by the end of the seven classes, their $35 can be returned to them, in essence making the classes totally free. A large number of the successful “quitters” have asked that their fees be retained by WCHD to provide more classes and assist more people to quit smoking.

“More than 130 people in Winnebago County have participated in the program in 2010. More than two-thirds of them report being tobacco-free weeks and months after they have completed the program,” added Didier. He also noted the support and encouragement participants provide one another in the class, which seems to be a key to their success in quitting smoking.

Didier also noted that “People involved in counseling or classes are twice as likely to quit as those who try to do it on their own. For persons using NRT products (or other medications prescribed by their physician), their chance of successfully quitting smoking doubles again.”

The financial support for this program comes from a grant received from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and supplemented by the Winnebago County Health Department.

To register for the upcoming classes or to get your questions answered, contact the Tobacco Programs coordinator at (815) 720-4269 or

From the March 30-April 5, 2011 issue

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