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RECENT SMOKERS TELL CIGARETTES TO BUTT OUT
Source: Mason City Globe Gazette
Author: Kristin Buehner


Nov 12, 2007 -- Heidi McCourt and Boo Boo her cat are on speaking terms again.

Back when Heidi was still smoking, they didn't get along.

"If I lit up a cigarette she'd look at me like, 'How dare you,' and leave," the 32-year-old Mason City woman recalled.

But 11 weeks ago McCourt gave up cigarettes after smoking up to 1? packs a day for 17 years.

Her relationship with Boo Boo is just one of the positive changes since she quit smoking, McCourt said.

She no longer coughs as badly as she once did. She has more energy. Clothes, blankets and pillows no longer smell of smoke. She breathes better.

"I can actually smell my perfume now instead of smoke," she said.

Although McCourt said she had wanted to quit for a long time, the high cost of cigarettes is what finally pushed her over the edge.

"To me, to spend $5 a day for a pack of cigarettes was just ridiculous," she said.

Her husband, Dan, a non-smoker, was also on her case, complaining about the smoke in his face and worrying about the health impact on their 4-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, and Heidi's 12-year-old son, Nicholas.

To help in her battle, Heidi joined the Smoke-Free Families program through North Iowa Community Action Organization. The program is available free to families with young children.

Through Smoke-Free Families she obtained Chantix, a non-nicotine prescription medication that McCourt said was her "miracle." It made cigarettes taste horrible, she said.

Eventually she gave away her last pack of cigarettes.

"I have not cheated," she said.

"That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," she said of her battle to quit smoking. "I will never go back because I never want to try to quit again."



Paul Crimmings, 30, of Manly was a smoker for only about eight years, but is finding it a struggle to quit.

He decided to give up smoking last spring out of concern for his own health and the health of his children.

"When you breathe a little bit and it hurts it starts to scare you," he said.

An employee of Curries Co., Crimmings formerly smoked up to two packs a day.

Last spring he joined the Smoke-Free Families program.

Free nicotine patches from Smoke-Free Families helped cut down his craving for cigarettes. "They really worked for me," he said.

Even though he still struggles with the need to smoke on occasion, Crimmings said he already feels "tremendously better."

"I feel more rested. I'm a lot better off than I used to be," he said.

He plans to give up cigarettes completely the day of the Great American Smokeout on Thursday.

His goal is to stay off cigarettes for a year, starting that day.



Quittin' Time, a stop-smoking program offered free to employees of Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, has helped Collette Whitney, a psychometrist, and Roger Lamp, an orthotist and prosthetist, to make a new start.

The program was started in July 2006, a year before Mercy became a smoke-free campus, said Becky Arneson, a Mercy certified tobacco treatment specialist.

Since the program was established more than 100 employees have participated, Arneson said.

Employees who enroll in Quittin' Time meet with a tobacco treatment specialist who reviews the available products to help quit smoking. Employees receive a 50 percent discount on the products.

They make a plan for how to quit and set a goal.

"There is no magic pill," Arneson said. "You still have to do the work. You have to have the desire to quit."

Knowing that Mercy was going smoke-free played a part in both Whitney's and Lamp's decisions to quit smoking.

Lamp, who is 60 and smoked up to two packs a day for 41 years, gave up smoking on March 26, 2006.

He made it his goal to give up cigarettes by the time Mercy became a smoke-free campus.

Lamp credits Chantix with helping him quit. "I wish they'd come out with it 40 years ago," he said. "You lose the craving."

He also appreciated the support of a Mercy counselor who worked with him through the Quittin' Time program.

"I definitely feel better," he said. "I feel like I've had more energy."

Whitney, who is 44, smoked between a half to three-fourths of a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 20 years.

"I thought it was a good time (to quit)," she said.

She, too, used Chantix as an aid.

On Jan. 18, Whitney went smoke-free. She quit with a co-worker so they could plan their breaks together to give each other support.

Her daughter has told her the house smells better. Whitney also believes she has more stamina now.

"I guess all-around I feel healthier," she said. "People say I don't clear my throat as much as I used to."

Most importantly, perhaps, it makes her happy to think that smoking no longer controls her life, Whitney said.

"I don't have to sit there and think about when can I have a cigarette again," she said.

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