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New Year the perfect time to quit smoking

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By The Staff

By Jimmie Earls

Sun Staff Writer

The new year is the ideal time to make a fresh start. It's a time for new beginnings and to follow through on those New Year's resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions is to stop smoking, and the Washington County Health Department is offering a free series of classes that will help smokers finally kick the habit.

“We're offering the Cooper/Clayton Method to smoking cessation, and it's something that we've offered to Washington County before,” said Rod Mattingly, community health educator with the health department. “It's a 12-week long, video-driven series that incorporates nicotine-replacement products and group support. The course is free of charge to those 18 years old and up, but they will have to supply their own nicotine-replacement products.”

Those products include nicotine patches, chewing gum or lozenges. Mattingly said that the Cooper/Clayton course can help those who also chew tobacco or use smokeless tobacco dip or pouches. The program slowly decreases the amount of nicotine being delivered into the individuals system, and eventually they will be weaned off nicotine altogether.

“This program has three steps, starting out for six weeks on the initial amount of nicotine replacement and then you gradually step down,” Mattingly added.

According to numbers for calendar year 2007 provided by the Washington County Health Department, one out of every three adults 18 or older (33.1 percent) in the county were smokers, while the state average was 27.4 percent. With much of the state's agriculture relying heavily on tobacco growth, Mattingly said he sometimes feels like it's a battle. According to the latest figures released a couple of weeks ago from the World Health Organization, five million people die annually from smoking-related causes, while another 600,000 die from complications from secondhand smoke. Mattingly said that all of those deaths were not only premature, but were also preventable deaths.

“The latest research shows that smoking takes between 13 and 14 years off of the normal lifetime,” he said. “Usually people begin smoking when they're in middle school or early high school and they lose that many years of quality life by smoking. Close to 9,000 people in Kentucky die from smoking each year.”

Smoking isn't the only tobacco-related cause of preventable deaths. More and more young people are turning to smokeless tobacco, thinking that it is not affecting others around them, and in turn more cases of oral cancer are starting to appear.

Mattingly also said that smoking is more prevalent in girls than boys.

“Young girls right now are smoking more than young guys,” he added. “That's a scary statistic, particularly because a girl's biggest fear used to be breast cancer, but lung cancer is now the big fear.”

He said once someone stops smoking, a lot of the adverse effects can be reversed.

“Most of the effects are reversible, however the only exception I know of is emphysema,” Mattingly added. “But the emphysema doesn't get worse if you quit smoking. After about one year, your heart and lungs pretty much recover. Other diseases like kidney and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) recovery as well and five to 10 years is the time frame for that.”

Mattingly stressed the importance of time when it comes to quitting the smoking habit. But he also said that it's not something that others can make.

“Going cold turkey is the absolute worst way to try to quit,” he said. “It's a hard habit to break and with the nicotine replacement products and group support, about 40 percent will quit successfully. I think the whole key is that the individual has to want to quit, there has to be some will power there. There's no magic pill. Everybody wants it to be easy, but it's not.”

For more information about signing up for the smoking cessation program, call Rod Mattingly at the Washington County Health Department at (859) 336-3989.