Many people have decided to start 2021 by making a quit attempt and ending their dependency on tobacco products for good. But that is easier said than done. As any former tobacco user will tell you, the key to success is finding resources and tools to rely on. Since its introduction 40 years ago, the American Lung Association's Freedom From Smoking® program has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans end their addiction to nicotine. But don’t take our word for it. These success stories speak for themselves.
Spotlight on Wendell
Wendell never wanted to be a full-time smoker but his casual smoking in college soon led to a serious addiction. Growing up in a smokefree household, his smoking addiction felt like his “dirty little secret.” He always wanted to quit and tried a few times but to no avail. In addition, he never brought up his smoking to his doctor—for the same reasons he kept it from his closest friends and family, he was embarrassed. But in preparing for hernia surgery in 2003, he had to tell his doctor about his smoking. His doctor encouraged him to quit, and he did for a while—right before the surgery and after. He thought it would be the catalyst he needed, but that quit attempt didn’t stick.
In late 2006, he was working at a hospital in Baltimore where there was a health fair booth that measured their levels of carbon dioxide in their system, and he was shocked at the levels of carbon dioxide in his system. Around that time, he and his wife were also talking about starting a family, and he knew he didn’t want to smoke around his children, so he was more motivated than ever to quit.
The hospital he worked at had an American Lung Association Freedom From Smoking group clinic starting, so he signed up and went through the formal process of quitting smoking. His quit date was January 1, 2007 and he was able to stay smokefree through the formal quit smoking process of identifying triggers, setting a quit date and working through urges when he first quit. He also attributes his success to being fully ready to quit smoking and motivated to do so. “I was fortunate to hear about the Freedom From Smoking program from my employer and it came at a time when I had “tried” to quit smoking quite a few times before. What helped me the most was having a plan and knowing what to do when cravings hit," he said.
Since then, he has been completely smokefree and has even become a Freedom From Smoking Facilitator to help others to quit smoking. Compared to his smoking days, his life is completely different. He does not miss those days when he would have to step outside for a cigarette – especially on days when the elements are terrible. The habitual part of smoking – reaching out for a cigarette after a meal or being stressed out and needing a cigarette — are all gone. Even though he is older, he feels better every day because he is getting further away from nicotine. "I highly recommend this program for anyone who is ready to quit and is looking for tools to make it successful.”
Spotlight on Ana
Ana’s father was a smoker, so from a young age she was exposed to smoking. She picked up her first cigarette around age 16 and it would be a dependency that lasted for the next 40 years of her life.
Ana works as a Resident Services Coordinator for Housing Development Corporation Mid Atlantic. In 2015, as part of her role, she reached out to Lebanon Family Health Services to set up on site classes for her residents to help them quit smoking. As she made the arrangements for the Freedom from Smoking classes, Ana thought hard about her own addiction to smoking. She had spent the last five years trying to quit but was unable to do so by herself. That is why she decided to take the class with her residents. “The instructor was very knowledgeable and professional and taught us skills that, with time, proved to work.”
At the end of the course, Ana gave herself the gift of joining a gym, which she still attends three days a week. When Ana lost her mother in 2019, she credits the skills she learned in her Freedom From Smoking class for giving her the skills to get through the tough time while still remaining smokefree.
On November 17, Ana celebrated five years smokefree. Today, she continues to encourage others by talking to them about her experience and what how Freedom From Smoking helped her quit.
Spotlight on Rachel
Rachel became a Freedom From Smoking Facilitator in February 2018 and taught her first Freedom From Smoking clinic when the HUD’s Smoke-Free Housing Rule was about to go into effect. One of the local housing authorities asked her to provide a clinic for residents who wanted to prepare to go smokefree. The class was filled to capacity, but Rachel found that the response from program participants made all of the stress of her first clinic worth it. This is why she went on to be hired full-time to lead Smoke Free Families, Healthier Babies program and became a Freedom From Smoking Facilitator Trainer.
“Many of the participants in our clinics are coming to us because they’ve tried to quit smoking many times, and they’re feeling like they’ve tried everything and nothing has worked,” Rachel said. “The reason I think that Freedom From Smoking works better than other programs is because it’s based on behavioral change that allows participants to tackle their addiction to smoking in manageable steps, rather than trying to do everything at once and becoming overwhelmed by the process. My background is in psychology and social work and I see so many components that are key to making lasting behavior changes in the program. The Freedom From Smoking curriculum allows clients to think about their quit journey in new ways that they might not be exposed to on their own.”
For the past two and a half years, Rachel has worked with Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis, which is a shelter for pregnant women. After her first few clinics, the women started to refer to Rachel as the “cigarette lady” and always knew that when she arrived that it was time for the Freedom From Smoking clinic. Over time, some of the women who participated in the clinics would talk with Rachel afterwards about their success at staying smokefree.
“One participant in particular took the clinic twice. From our first session, she told me that she didn’t really want to quit smoking or think that she would be able to quit for good,” Rachel said. “However, months later she was still smokefree. When I have women share these achievements with me, it’s one of the best parts of my work.”
To learn more about our Freedom From Smoking program and how to get involved, visit Lung.org/ffs.
Blog last updated: January 29, 2021