Get Healthy, Live Well is offering the Fresh Start program to the community. Fresh Start is a tobacco cessation counseling program designed by the American Cancer Society. It helps people stop using tobacco by arming them with information, providing skills for coping with cravings and offering group support.
The program is easy to fit into a busy lifestyle since it lasts for only three weeks (with meetings once a week for about an hour). Participants are always welcome to come back again if they need more support.
The program facilitators are former smokers who understand what it’s like to struggle with quitting. Wes Webster, a counselor with Employee Assistance Program at Tanner Health System, quit smoking more than 20 years ago and has been leading smoking cessation classes for the past 18 years.
“It usually takes multiple attempts to quit smoking,” says Webster. “We understand that, and this program says ‘we’re going to try to make this one the one that works.’”
“Everyone knows the scary stuff about how bad smoking or dipping or chewing is for your health, so we focus on the positive benefits of quitting,” Webster explained.
For example, within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your blood pressure drops and within a year, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes.
Focusing on the positives made a big difference for one recent participant. Sara*, who successfully quit smoking through the Fresh Start program, says she liked the positive reinforcement and enjoyed learning about the health benefits of quitting.
“I have so much more energy now and I just feel a lot better overall,” says Sara, who hasn’t smoked in six weeks now.
Like many tobacco users, Sara had tried to quit before on her own. The Fresh Start program helped her make a strategy and focus her energy on quitting for good.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I am so happy I quit,” Sara said. “Chewing on Altoids has helped me get through it, and also exercising and drinking lots of water.”
Fresh Start is personalized to each participant because it educates about all the options — nicotine replacement, medication or cold turkey — and lets participants decide what works best for them.
The program is realistic in that it helps people develop coping skills to combat the psychological and physical side effects of smoking cessation — and find their motivation to stay away from tobacco forever. Understanding addiction is a key part of quitting tobacco, Webster says.
“Tobacco controls you and it controls your day,” said Sara. “After you have a cigarette, then you start thinking about when you can have your next cigarette.”
Former tobacco users who have successfully kicked their habit say that long-term motivation is especially important.
“It’s easy to quit, but it’s hard to stay quit,” Webster says. “The brain is what is addicted and the brain is going to try to trick you into smoking again.”