The negative impact of smoking is staggering. According to the American Lung Association, about 8.6 million people in the United States suffer from at least one illness caused by smoking. Furthermore, each year, approximately 443,000 Americans die from smoking-related illness such as chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Such statistics are certainly compelling motivation for tossing the tobacco in the trash. But as anyone who has ever attempted to kick the habit can attest, overcoming the addiction is no easy feat. The American Cancer Society has noted that medication, therapy, and support groups—and particularly these tools in combination—can all increase the odds of success when it comes to quitting smoking for good.
If you’ve resolved this new year to finally extinguish your cigarette addiction, there are several resources—many of them free—to assist you.
City of Austin Smoking Cessation Program
City of Austin (CoA) employees, spouses, and dependents (18 years of age or older) who are currently enrolled in the city’s health plan are eligible for free smoking-cessation resources.
According to CoA benefits manager Karen Haywood and wellness coordinator Michelle Du, employees who want to quit smoking may attend a 1.5-hour class held monthly at rotating city worksites. After the course, attendees are eligible for free tobacco cessation medication (with a prescription) or nicotine replacement therapy (e.g., gum or the patch).
Cessation sessions are conducted by trainers from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) who discuss psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues that may arise when trying to quit. In addition to the medication and nicotine replacement therapy, employees are offered ongoing EAP assistance to help them succeed long term.
CoA is currently focused on “creating a culture of health,” Du said, which includes smoke-free city vehicles and campuses, as well as partnering with Live Tobacco Free Austin, a public website sponsored by the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
This comprehensive website goes beyond education on cessation methods—it helps smokers formulate a plan prior to quitting and offers them helpful tips and resources along the way. Users can receive advice on how to battle cravings and withdrawal, bounce back from a slip, and cope with depression and stress that can ensue from the effort of trying to quit.
Recognizing that support is vital to sustaining success in the quitting process, smokers can speak to a live person for information and encouragement by calling one of several hotlines. There is also live chat, a smartphone app, and a text message system that provides “24/7 encouragement, advice and tips to help you quit and stay quit.”
Smokefree Women is a subsidiary of smokefree.gov, and offers health-related smoking cessation information specific to women, including topics on pregnancy and motherhood. Women can also access articles about smoking cessation and weight management, and how to deal with stress, moods, and relationships.
As with smokegree.gov, users can chat live with a smoking cessation counselor, download mobile apps, and sign up for text message support.
Yet another subsidiary of smokefree.gov, Smokefree Teen empowers teenagers to take their health into their own hands by making positive choices. Teens can learn about the long-term health implications of smoking and receive tips for handling peer pressure and stress.
Freedom From Smoking
This trademark program from the American Lung Association was ranked “most effective smoking cessation program” by Fordham University School of Business. Utilizing “proven addiction and behavior change models,” Freedom From Smoking includes both individual and group resources, as well as a detailed plan to help smokers quit. There are eight sessions in total, and an online program is also available.
According to the American Lung Association, smokers who use their program are “six times more likely to be smoke free one year later” than those who attempt to quit on their own; furthermore, in combination with smoking cessation medication, 60 percent of smokers report success at the conclusion of the program.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, Quit Tobacco offers military servicemen and women resources to formulate a smoking cessation plan (including information about medications and nicotine replacement therapies), receive 24-hour help through live online chats, and connect with military personnel via social media for support.
Resources are also provided for friends and family who want to help their loved one quit, including suggestions for offering support and dealing with mood swings and irritability.