Army Wife, Finally a Quitter, Motivated by Helping those in Poverty

Sandra ScheidtAmerican Lung Association HelpLine Goes the Distance with Lifelong Smoker

Sandra Scheidt is one of thousands of the military and their families whom the American Lung Association is reaching out to as it supports the Pentagon’s push for a tobacco-free military. “We are committed to saving the lives of our military personnel by preventing tobacco use and helping users quit,” said Captain Charles D. Connor, U.S. Navy (Ret.), American Lung Association President and CEO. “The time has come to tackle the terrible scourge of tobacco use among our young military population, who are becoming addicted to this deadly substance while serving our country. We stand at the ready to provide smoking cessation services and support to our military and their families,” he said.

A report released in 2009 by the prestigious Institute of Medicine found that the Department of Defense spends more than $1.6 billion each year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalizations and lost days of work. In 2008, the Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $5 billion to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an often-fatal lung disease linked closely to smoking. The American Lung Association has urged the Pentagon to implement measures to create a new era of healthier, tobacco-free soldiers and saving countless young lives by implementing and enforcing smokefree policies on all military installations and ending the sale of tobacco products at base exchanges and commissaries.

Like many military spouses, Sandra Scheidt of Las Vegas devoted more than 20 years of her life to managing her family and home while her husband was deployed, sometimes with a few hours' notice. But for more than 30 years, she smoked heavily and has fought her own battle to quit for the past three years. Finally, thanks to a comprehensive approach, Sandra is firmly on the path to a smokefree life and has found a compassionate alternative for the cash she no longer spends on more than four cartons of cigarettes each month—and personal motivation.

Sandra's husband Ralph, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, recently marked his 20th anniversary of being smokefree.  She first tried to quit about three years ago before her first grandchild was born. "I quit, but there was lots of stress in my life, and I started again," she explains. "I never got back up to the number of cigarettes I used to smoke, but the old habits were coming back. After a year I realized it was ridiculous!" In 2007, Sandra quit using Chantix and the American Lung Association (ALA) HelpLine for weekly support, as part of the program.

"I really wanted to quit and cleanse my body of it, and one day I was sitting in church and felt that tug. Our church works with Compassion International to sponsor children in other countries, and I realized that sponsoring a child was less than what I was spending on cigarettes every month. I could use that money to do something good for someone else, even though I'd already damaged my body with the smoking," explained Sandra.

Today Sandra, the proud grandmother of an infant and a 2 year-old, corresponds with the young girl in South America she now helps support. "For less than the cost of cigarettes, I can give her schooling, immunizations, clothing, food, Bible study, and a chance to help her get to college and change her life," said Sandra. "And it helps me boost my encouragement not to smoke because it's helping her and encouraging her, that someone cares enough about her to do something."

Sandra's other one-on-one encouragement is the consistent support from the ALA HelpLine. "The HelpLine is wonderful! They're awesome people who help you get through your problems, help you figure out what triggers your urge to smoke so that you can better deal with it," she said. "They are so encouraging, and they're there to listen and to help you with whatever you need. They'll help with diet questions, direct you to your doctor, or just give you some tips and encouragement to keep you going."

Sandra, 52, has stayed smokefree for the last two years and is keeping a positive attitude despite physical and other hurdles. She is disabled because of chronic, painful back problems, and her husband lost his job due to the failing economy. She spends lots of time with her grandchildren now and remains motivated by her relationship with the child she sponsors.

"It's never really a good time to quit," she admits. "But I keep myself busy, and I don't look back. I know my failures, and now I do some good with all the money I used to spend on cigarettes."