Tobacco-Free: 10-week program at Ellis Fischel helps smokers kick the habit for good

Let us help you kick the habit for the good

photo of broken cigarette on calendar

The causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer is undisputed in the medical community, yet tobacco use remains remarkably high among adults in the U.S. In fact, 22.3 percent (1,049,400) of adults in Missouri smoke.

To help lower that number, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, in collaboration with the MU Wellness Resource Center, is offering its third 10-week tobacco-free group program — running Aug. 10 to Oct. 5 — to help smokers kick the habit for good.

“Enrollment in a cessation program that provides support, behavior change strategies and nicotine replacement therapy (like the patches or gum) doubles your chances of successfully quitting compared to unassisted quitting,” says Jenna Wintemberg, instructor of health sciences in the MU School of Health Professions and facilitator of the program. “Many of the people going through these classes have completely quit smoking or significantly cut back by the end of the 10-week session.”

Through the program, participants attend five one-hour group classes over the 10-week period, and each class includes several discussions and activities that are known to help people through the quitting process, such as activities focused on healthy lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, coping with triggers and developing coping strategies.

“After the second class period, each individual works with a cessation coach to determine his or her need for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and is provided with a voucher for free patches or gum,” Wintemberg says. The NRT voucher is then renewed throughout the remaining classes.

Although the Wellness Resource Center plans to follow up with participants in the coming months to determine long-term success rates of the program, response from the first two sessions has been positive.

“Past participants have had great things to say about this program,” Wintemberg adds. “The groups are always supportive, and we see friendships form as people quit together.”

Why it works

Although most attempts to quit smoking are done cold turkey, this program takes a different approach. Using a well-researched curriculum combined with free nicotine-replacement therapy such as patches or gum, the tobacco-free program at Ellis allows participants to change behaviors while gradually stepping down from nicotine.

“Many participants have been smokers for 10, 20 or 30 years, and we don’t expect them to quit overnight,” Wintemberg says. “Quitting is a process that takes time and support, and this program provides that.”

Why it’s important

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., Wintemberg says, and on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Smokers are also at greater risk of developing numerous chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases.

“We all know someone who has been harmed by tobacco,” Wintemberg says. “The people who come through this class are our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and co-workers. By offering this cessation program, Ellis Fischel is saving lives and giving us more time with our loved ones.”

All tobacco-free courses are free and open to the public. Face-to-face meetings will take place in the second-floor conference room of Ellis Fischel every other Thursday at 5:30 p.m. To learn more about the program or to register, contact Angela Winterbower at winterbowera@health.missouri.edu or 573-884-2049.

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