By Joanie Morris
When Angie Hahn found out that she would no longer be able to smoke on the campus of NorthEast Medical Center this past summer, she was pretty upset ó she works there.
Hahn started smoking every day when she was 18. She first tried cigarettes when she was 16.
Now 29, Hahn doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. She quit smoking on Oct. 22.
“So far, I’ve been doing great,” she said. “You have those moments when you really crave one, but those pass.”
Hahn is glad she quit smoking and was happy to share her story with a reporter during the Great American Smoke-Out in Cabarrus County last week.
On Nov. 16, smokers across the country were challenged to put their smokes out and in Cabarrus County, the Cabarrus Health Alliance, NorthEast Medical Center and other organizations commemorated the 30th annual Great American Smokeout by hosting and participating in various activities.
The activities were aimed at encouraging participants to quit smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, significant reductions in tobacco use in the last 30 years have made smoking the exception, not the rule.
There are now more former adult American smokers than current adult smokers. The reductions in tobacco smoking account for about 40 percent of the decrease in cancer-related deaths among men between the years 1991 and 2003, and have prevented about 146,000 cancer deaths during that time.
Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, claiming the lives of an estimated 162,460 Americans this year. In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
For Hahn, quitting hasn’t been the easiest thing she’s done, but it’s the best thing for her health, she said. Things that are helping her make the transition from smelling like an ashtray each day to being able to stop and smell the flowers include “chewing lots of gum. Drinking lots of water.
“This time, I really want to quit,” Hahn said. “Not for anybody else but for me.”
She said it helps that she knows she can’t leave her desk and go take a smoke because NorthEast Medical Center turned smoke-free all over the campus ó even in cars for employees, guests and visitors ó on July 6.
“I got tired of smoking,” said Hahn. “Sometimes you sit around and think, ‘I know I need to quit for health reasons.’ I just decided it was time.”
Hahn has tried to quit smoking “many times, at least four or five.
“I would go a couple of days and just decide I wanted one again,” said Hahn. She’s quit cold turkey in the past. This time, she said she’s getting by with a little help from a nicotine replacement patch. She will stay on the first stage of the patch “for as long as I feel the urge.” Then she will move to the next stage. Even now, she’s thought about picking up a cigarette and taking just one puff.
“I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t,” she said. To decrease her chances of getting the urge, Hahn said she doesn’t put herself in situations where she would want to smoke. “I’m not around anyone that smokes. The only time I would be around anyone that smokes is if I go to lunch with someone here that smokes. That’s the reason I haven’t. I would say, ‘Just one little puff.’ ”
On Thursday, Cabarrus County celebrated the Great American Smokeout in several ways. Those included:
– Cabarrus Health Alliance promoted the national campaign by holding events at Concord Middle and Mount Pleasant Middle schools. Event activities included tobacco-free life pledge card signings, tobacco facts, trivia and more.
– NorthEast Medical Center hosted a table in front of Caf 920 in the Medical Arts Building with information available about the dangers of tobacco use and the benefits of stopping. Participants could swap packs of cigarettes for prizes.
– At Concord Mills Mall, the Cabarrus Health Alliance and NorthEast Medical Center hosted a pack swap at the food court. Adults and youth were encouraged to trade their tobacco for a healthier life.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a press release on Nov. 16 that it was her hope that phone lines for smokers wanting to quit would be ringing off the hook.
“Kicking the tobacco habit is one of the best things that smokers can do to improve their own health,” Purdue said. “The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity for us to encourage our youth to quit a habit that will ultimately rob them of their chance to live a healthy life.”
To talk to a counselor about quitting smoking in North Carolina, call the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW and for the American Cancer Society Quitline, call 1-800-ACS-2345. For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Joanie Morris