How WellSpan is helping people kick the habit

August 26, 2013

Quitting smoking is hard.  Jack Rose knows.  For more than 40 years, the Adams County resident depended on cigarettes to get him through his day.  He wanted to quit, but couldn’t.

Most former smokers can sympathize with Jack’s dilemma.  Many will tell you that quitting was without a doubt the toughest thing they ever did, but it was also the best thing they ever did.

In January 2013, Jack Rose signed up for a free, seven-week program called Freedom from Smoking, which was held at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital. 

“I decided to stop fooling myself,” he said.  “I tried quitting enough times on my own to know that I needed some help with this.”

Rose admits that he showed up the first night a skeptic.  But he left confident of success.  He particularly liked how the class was organized into three- and four-person support teams.

“When you’re working with other people, it feels like you have someone to answer to,” he said.

The Freedom from Smoking curriculum was designed by the American Lung Association.  Rose and his classmates learned techniques for avoiding smoking triggers, for dealing with stress and preventing weight gain, and for getting through the toughest urges and cravings. 

About halfway through the course came Quit Day, when they said goodbye to tobacco forever.

Students were offered a free, one-month supply of nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge.  They also left with a tool kit of cinnamon sticks and other cigarette substitutes.  And, of course, they had each other.  The support teams would help them get through the most difficult days.

The program has a higher-than-average success rate.  Forty-four percent of her students remain tobacco-free six months after graduation.  The state average is 23 percent.

Rose is still tobacco-free, and proud of it, but he admits the urges have worsened lately.  He plans to start attending monthly support group meetings, where he can once again gain strength from others.

Classes at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital are funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  In 2012, WellSpan decided to bring Freedom from Smoking to York County, even though no grant funding was available.

Kevin Alvarnaz, WellSpan’s director of community health improvement, said the program’s track record justifies its cost.

“It has worked so well for Adams County, and we’ve seen so much success there, that we made the commitment to bring it to York County residents, and adopt it to their needs,” Alvarnaz said.

For more information on WellSpan’s tobacco cessation classes, in Adams County call (717) 338-3259, and in York County call (717) 851-5857.