A woman who came to a tobacco-free Florida program in Lakeland last month said she was ready to quit.
“I’ve smoked so long I’m sick of it,” she told Dennisse (cq) Rios, a tobacco treatment specialist who hosts the program.
His daily routine was to smoke half a pack to three quarters of a pack.
Two other participants, who were vaping, were there because their employers told them to go.
Employer mandates have become more common in recent years, said Bethany Coz, director of the tobacco control program for the Central Florida Region Health Education Center, part of Tobacco Free Florida.
The free session led by Rios was one of his various approaches to helping people quit smoking, vaping and other forms of tobacco.
Rios, a former smoker herself, is going with the flow, adapting her approach to better serve participants.
If she has mostly people who really want to quit smoking, she can take a more comprehensive approach than with those who are under duress.
In this case, she had both, so she probed them gently, trying for 50 minutes to figure out what they needed to hear most.
In-person group sessions like the one she led have become rare over the past two years of COVID-19. More and more is done virtually.
“We see people 18 and older,” Coz said. “We use Zoom as a platform.”
There are various other options, such as telephone access to a qualified “quitting coach” for personal advice or Web Quit’s online resource for people who want to try quitting on their own.
During the session held at the Hollis Cancer Center, Rios said that nicotine is the ingredient that makes smoking addictive, while other chemicals in cigarettes lead to health issues like lung cancer.
“There are over 7,000 chemicals in that lit cigarette,” she said, listing arsenic and carbon monoxide among them.
“There are more harmful chemicals in cigarettes, but vaping contains chemicals too.”
Nickel, lead, zinc and tin are among those in vaping, she said.
Smoking is linked to the vast majority of lung cancer cases.
Rios acknowledged the difficulty of quitting smoking, how people in rehab centers trying to quit smoking said it was easier to quit drinking, cocaine or opiates than quitting smoking.
“Very few people can quit cold turkey,” she said.
She gave practical advice on how to break patterns related to smoking or vaping and highlighted the four Ds to ease quitting:
Drink cold water.
Distract yourself with an activity.
They talked about the various reasons why people smoke, such as for pleasure, to reduce stress, habit, weight loss or to be social.
Rios made sure all participants knew about nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges, which the program can make available to help them quit smoking.
The young vaper, who said some people smoke just to take a break from work, didn’t seem interested in quitting.
But the young vaper, a former cigarette smoker, said she would try using the lozenges.
The smoker trying to quit came away with patches and lozenges.
Everyone brought home the Tools to Quit manual, a comprehensive 35-page manual covering (among other things) the dangers of smoking, the benefits of quitting, how to manage the triggers that encourage smoking, analyze why you smoke and overcome stopping obstacles.
This manual, as well as aids such as patches or gum, are also available for people who follow the program virtually.
COVID has had a mixed impact on tobacco use.
“COVID has been a motivation for some to quit,” Coz said. “With others, we’ve seen relapses because stress is a major motivator (for relapses).”
National cigarette sales fell from 202.9 billion in 2019 to 203.7 billion in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It was the first increase in 20 years.
Florida has one of the lowest high school smoking rates in the country, Tobacco Free Florida said, but e-cigarette use threatens that.
More than one in five Florida high school students reported currently using e-cigarettes in 2020, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.
The use of electronic cigarettes is often referred to as vaping.
Vaping use dropped significantly among students nationwide in 2021, but reported percentages of having used it in the past year still ranged from 12.1% of eighth graders to 26.6 % of 12th grade students.
The 2020 range was 16.6% of eighth graders to 34.5% of 12th graders.
This data on teen nicotine vaping, provided by the InnerAct Alliance in Lakeland, comes from the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey.
More information on smoking, cancer, and e-cigarettes is available from the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org, www.tobaccofreeflorida.com, or by calling 877-822-6669.
Contact Robin Williams Adams at [email protected]