Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Free program helps tobacco users quit | SteamboatToday.com

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Free program helps tobacco users quit

Tamera Manzanares/For the Steamboat Today

For more than 50 years, a 72-year-old client of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's Tobacco Free Program has played tug-o-war with cigarettes. She's repeatedly quit smoking, only to be pulled back into the habit while coping with stress.

"When life threw me a curveball, I went out and bought cigarettes," said the client, who prefers her struggles with tobacco remain private. She worries discussing it with others may jeopardize her recent success in quitting. Her concerns are a testament to the lifelong challenge smokers face in kicking the habit.

Her renewed effort to quit smoking gained momentum last fall after she enrolled in the Tobacco Free Program and worked with a tobacco cessation counselor at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The extra support helped her better understand the nature of her nicotine addiction and ways to combat its powerful pull. She has been tobacco free for almost three months.

"I've gained a lot of freedom and relief," she said. "I'm not being run anymore by physical or emotional addiction. I have tools now to deal with it."

A person's body becomes dependent on the physical effects of nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, needing more and more as he or she continues smoking. Nicotine reaches the brain quickly, causing pleasant feelings that distract smokers from stress and encourage a continuous physical and mental/emotional urge to smoke or use tobacco.

Nicotine dependency makes quitting very difficult; only about 4 to 7 percent of smokers are able to quit without support. The Tobacco Free Program, composed of six, one-hour classes, addresses the complex mental and emotional factors involved in quitting. It helps participants make behavioral changes that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive state of mind, diverting them from routines and thinking that lead to smoking.

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The program does not encourage quitting cold turkey but instead empowers participants to set goals for tapering off their habit and setting a quit date. They prepare themselves through a "soul searching" process exploring the role tobacco plays in their lives, including situations and moods that trigger cravings. They learn to use stress management and other strategies to replace tobacco as a coping mechanism.

The program setting allows participants to bounce ideas off one another about ways to distract themselves from wanting to smoke. If a person normally smokes a cigarette with their coffee, they might switch to tea. Maybe they decide to walk their dog instead of sitting down for a cigarette first thing in the morning.

"That helped me a lot — looking at what triggers my urge to smoke and how I react to that," said the client, who has found cigarette cravings often subside after a brisk walk or play session with her dog. "I remove myself from the situation causing me to want to smoke."

The Tobacco Free Program is led by a tobacco cessation counselor who will provide an individualized tobacco assessment for each participant when they register. The tobacco cessation counselor may work with a person in conjunction with the class and follows up with participants' progress after the class.

It's recommended that participants register and take all six classes in the Tobacco Free series, but drop-ins also are welcome. For more information about free tobacco cessation counseling or to register for the Tobacco Free Program, call 970-871-7338.

Other support options include free, personalized phone support through the Colorado QuitLine: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. SmokefreeTXT provides tips and encouragement for young smokers trying to quit: Text QUIT to IQUIT (47848).

Tamera Manzanares is the marketing coordinator at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. She can be reached at tmanzanares@nwcovna.org.

Tobacco Free Program

The Tobacco Free Program provides tools and peer support to individuals who want to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco. The free program is noon to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 6 through Feb. 10 at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101. To register for the class or talk to a Tobacco Cessation Counselor, call 970-871-7338.