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Oct. 1 begins Decatur’s no-smoking ordinance ... will you be ready to quit?

“To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know; I’ve done it a thousand times.”

— Mark Twain

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

utting down those cigarettes can be tough.

Last year, about 23.3 percent of Alabama residents smoked, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And 55 percent of them tried to quit during the year.

If you’re thinking about trying to stop, this might be a good time, because the Decatur City Council’s new no-smoking ordinance for public places could make life more difficult beginning Oct. 1.

However, there is no proven, tried-and-true method. For every person who has quit cold turkey through sheer willpower, there are dozens who have taken the gradual stop-start process of putting down the magic sticks only to pick them up again later. So how have people who wanted to quit ended the cycle?

Some Decatur-area residents tried the over-the-counter route with nicotine-infused gums, lozenges and patches. Others, including Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, got prescriptions for medications such as Chantix, a package of pills designed to help smokers stop (see related story).

Alternative techniques like acupuncture, hypnosis, support classes and prayer worked for some.

If you have the desire to stop, it seems, then finding the successful method for you can take exploring.

Patricia and Michael Dowd of Decatur said they quit smoking together right after a health scare.

“We were very determined once we decided,” she said, and they didn’t use any aids to quit.

“My husband has asthma. One morning I went in the kitchen and he was bent over the stove, trying to catch his breath. We went to the emergency room, where he had three breathing treatments, and the doctor told him he needed to quit smoking,” she said.

“He told me he didn’t think he could quit if I continued to smoke,” she said. “I said his health was more important and I would quit, too. I needed to, anyway, because I had found that lung cancer runs in my father’s family.”

Now he is 58 and she is 54, and they’ve been smoke-free for eight years. And when he had a heart attack, the doctor told them it was a good thing he had stopped smoking, or it would have been a lot worse.


Patricia Bryant of Decatur, 51, said she has smoked almost all her life. “If you’ve been smoking for 40-plus years, you can’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m going to quit.’

“I’ve had some success before, and I’ve tried most everything: laying ’em down, the nicotine patch, the Quit Assist prescription pill, and prayer, too,” she said.

Her most recent effort to stop involves acupuncture treatments with Dr. Loren Hunter of Life Essentials in Decatur.

“Smoking is a nasty habit. Sometimes I can’t stand the smell or taste of cigarettes, and I don’t know why they are so comforting to me, but they are,” Bryant said. “I can’t get rid of the habit of going outside with a cigarette after I eat. But I’m trying.”

Hunter, who has a doctorate in acupuncture from the University of Hong Kong, explained that smoking cessation patients would typically get about five sterile, 11/2-inch needles in each ear. Forty-five minutes later, after listening to music through headphones, you’re done.

“And there’s no pain to it, by the way,” Hunter said.

He estimates the success rate at 96 to 98 percent.

“This works whether you believe in it or not,” he said, by removing the front lobal craving, “and after three days, most don’t want any more cigarettes.”

He charges a one-time fee of $50 for the anti-smoking treatment, with follow-up visits free. He often treats several problems at the same time, perhaps combining weight loss or arthritis with quitting smoking.

One man who stopped smoking in the typical one visit told everyone at his plant, and Hunter treated 30 others from there the same month.

“Every one quit smoking, except that it took about 10 visits for one who didn’t really want to stop,” he said.

One man who had tried Wellbutrin, hypnosis and everything else went right out and lit up in the parking lot.

“He said, ‘What did you do to me? This tastes awful,’ ” said Hunter. “And he hasn’t had another one.”

A reminder of victory

Wayne Nicklaus of Decatur said he smoked for 17 years “before getting wise.” As a reminder of his 1977 victory over tobacco, the retired firefighter keeps one of the last three packs he bought tucked away in a desk drawer.

“For me, there really was no secret to quitting,” he said. “I compare it to a diet. There are a lot of diets out there, but the real diet is to cut back.”

He had tried to quit plenty of times before. This time he decided to cut back on his eating about two weeks before quitting smoking. “I was afraid I was going to gain weight, so I got a more stable diet.”

He recalls that cigarettes were only 50 cents a pack then. He was a three-pack-a-day smoker, so he bought three that morning. “At lunch, I went to get a cigarette out and realized I had only one left out of a whole pack.”

He went to his truck for another pack, “but I just laid my lighter on the dashboard.” He gave one pack to a co-worker, kept the other for posterity, and hoped his wife and children could put up with his anger for a few days.

“I’m sure the patches and other things out there might help, but many of those I talk to who get off cigarettes start back eventually,” said Nicklaus. “I guess the cold turkey method is about the best, if you can handle it.”

Support class

One woman who began smoking in her 20s with many of her peers said she waited until she was in her 70s to try to give it up.

She saw another older woman smoking one day and decided it didn’t look attractive and she was ready to quit after 45 years.

She tried wearing a patch, but then she decided to attend one of the supportive classes offered occasionally by hospitals and groups such as the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society.

“It was a six-week class, and doctors and nurses came and told us all the bad things about smoking. I knew most of them, but I smoked a pack a day, anyway.

“There were 20 of us, and we picked a ‘Quit Day’ in the second week. I quit then and haven’t had a cigarette since,” she said.

She was one of the lucky ones. Only 12 stayed tobacco-free long enough to complete the class.

She had a checkup recently, and her doctor asked if she was still smoke-free.

“I told him I was, for two years, four months and four days, and he came over and gave me a big hug,” she said.

“However, people had told me food would taste better and I would feel better and have more money, but that’s all a lie.”

Quit guide

So, you’re ready to quit smoking, what comes next?

Set a quit date. Mark it on your calendar and begin to mentally and physically prepare for it.

Throw them out. Throw away all cigarettes and matches at home, in your car and at work. Put away ashtrays and lighters.

Share your goal. Tell your family and friends you’re quitting and ask for their support. You may even inspire your friends to quit, too.

Avoid triggers. Take alcohol, coffee and other triggers out of your routine.

Set a no-smoking policy. Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home or car, and avoid people when they are smoking.

Get tools. Take advantage of aids like nicotine replacements, drug therapy and counseling. Nicotine gums, patches and lozenges are available over the counter. Wellbutrin and Chantix are two prescription medications that may help you quit.

Join a support group. People quit more successfully using a nicotine replacement combined with counseling.

Call a quitline. Contact the Alabama Tobacco Quitline at (800) QUIT-NOW.

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