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Be Smoke Free helps blow away addiction

Whether it is drinking too much alcohol on the weekends, driving a little too recklessly on the highway or being a little too cavalier in one’s sex life, kicking bad habits can be incredibly difficult.

A particularly nasty one to drop is smoking cigarettes because of their highly addictive nicotine ingredient. For smokers here on campus flirting with the idea of quitting, the university-run “Be Smoke Free” program is a one-stop resource for cessation education and treatment options.

The program helps smokers develop a healthy method of ceasing cigarette usage as well and provides a support group to help cope with the process.

Be Smoke Free was created in the early 90s and was the recipient of the Annual National Health Information Award in 2004.

“We start with an assessment that usually last about an hour,” said Virginia Perez, the program director. “We find out their history, triggers, possible replacement therapies and then go from there.”

Nicotine supplements can be found in gum, patches, nasal sprays and pills, and it is key to determine a treatment option best suited for the individual. The program additionally offers stress reduction treatments, acupuncture and exercise programs.

“It takes a second to decide to quit,” Perez said. ” I have had smokers come in ready to start that same day and they do. They’ve grabbed the cigarette box out of their pocket and dumped it in my garbage bin. As soon as they decide their quit date, they have started the process. Again, depending on the individual, they will start the next week and continue successfully, most do, or they will have a slip up and have to start again.”

According to Perez, some of the biggest upsides to the program are knowledge and support. Most people that try to quit on their own, by using a nicotine patch for example, have a tendency to use the wrong dosage or do not know when to stop using the supplement and end up quitting prematurely.

The program is open to join for everyone, not just students and faculty. For faculty members under the Aetna insurance and students under the University insurance, United Health Care, all fees associated with nicotine replacements are covered, while participants without the University insurance will be subjected to fees for the nicotine replacement options after the first month.

However, starting next fall, the program will undergo a policy change and the result will cost students a surcharge of $50 per semester they participate. Perez notes that the cost is less than the amount the average smoker spends on their supply of cigarettes. If the health effects do not deter people from smoking, maybe the rising costs of cigarettes will.

The sessions are offered free of charge every week on both the Coral Gables and medical school campuses.

“Right now we have 22 participants,” Perez said.

Not all participants are students; a good portion of the program is made up of people 50 and above who are still searching for a successful method to quit. To protect the privacy of its members, the Be Smoke Free program is strictly confidential, and unfortunately none of the members were available for comment.

Junior Keith Lyons, an avid smoker, has considered quitting.

“I have been a regular smoker for a few years and have always entertained the idea of quitting but I have never made that first big step,” he said.

With the UM medical school going smokeless just this year, many smokers are feeling added pressure to quit. Lyons intends to give it a closer look and he claims other smokers would if they knew about the program.

“I’m sure if more smokers knew about it, they would be interested in joining,” Lyons said. “I know I’m not alone in thinking of quitting.”

Patrick Todd may be contacted at ptodd@themiamihurricane.com.

Infobox
BE SMOKE FREE

Call (305) 243-7606  for further details or to register for the Be Smoke Free Program.

Quit Smoking Now sessions:
Medical Wellness Center:  Medical Campus
Tuesday 11 a.m.-  12 p.m.
Tuesday 5:15pm-  6:15pm
Thursday 11 a.m.- 12 p.m.

Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center: Gables Campus
Wednesday – 12:30pm  – 1:30pm
Wednesday – 5:15pm  –  6:15pm

April 7, 2010

Reporters

Patrick H. Todd


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