Health Department offers quit-smoking classes beginning Sept. 15

September 12, 2011

Online Staff Reports

Starting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) will offer another of their seven-session programs to help people stop smoking.

The smoking cessation classes will be in Room 221 of the Winnebago County Health Department’s facility at 555 N. Court St., Rockford.

WCHD’s smoking cessation program consists of weekly sessions providing education and support, and is designed to help people make behavioral changes that support their efforts to remain tobacco-free.

In the past year, participants who completed the seven-session program have been able to quit about 75 percent of the time. Quitting by the end of the program doesn’t guarantee long-term success, but the rates of being quit at three and six months, and a year later, have also increased dramatically.

Everyone knows smoking is dangerous, unhealthy and increasingly costly. It continues to be this country’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. Approximately one of every five deaths in the U.S. is related to smoking, killing approximately 439,000 Americans each year. Overall medical costs to treat smoking-related illnesses in the U.S. amount to nearly $100 billion each year.

The good news, though, is that more and more people are quitting — only about 20 percent of U.S. adults continue to smoke, which is about one-half of the rate in the 1960s. In fact, more people in the U.S. have quit smoking cigarettes (more than 47 million, as of July 2011) than the number of people who continue to smoke (about 45 million), so quitting can be done.

The WCHD program is unique because it moves past the WHY people should quit and emphasizes HOW to quit. It focuses on topics like: making a plan to quit; identifying your smoking triggers; dealing effectively with the emotions and stress of quitting; and adjusting your behaviors to deal effectively with ending your smoking habit. You will also learn how to maintain those healthy behaviors over a long period of time.

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

To assist in dealing with the physical addiction to nicotine, WCHD’s 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 the physical addiction to tobacco use.

A registration fee of $35 is requested, but it is not required from those unable to pay. If a participant quits smoking by the end of the seven classes, their $35 will be returned to them.

More than 175 people in Winnebago County have participated in the program since early 2010, and of those who complete the program, nearly three-quarters of them report being tobacco-free weeks — and even months — after they have completed the program,” Didier said.

A large number of these successful “quitters” have asked that their fees be retained by WCHD to help more people quit smoking. The support participants receive from one another in the class is a primary key to their success in quitting smoking.

Financial support for this program comes from a grant received from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and from the fees generated by the program.

To register for the classes beginning Thursday, Sept. 15, contact Didier at (815) 720-4269 or ldidier@wchd.org.

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