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All of her grandparents died at a young age from tobacco exposure.
But it was Patti Walton’s experience in a low-income clinic during her residency that further kindled her passion to help people live longer, healthier lives.
“I saw the toll that smoking and tobacco abuse took on patients and their families…the financial strain, cancer, COPD and asthma in kids and pets…it was heartbreaking,” she said.
With a certification in tobacco treatment, the clinical pharmacy specialist now helps people overcome the powerful addiction at PeaceHealth in Longview, Washington. She’s among many PeaceHealth providers who stand ready to assist anyone who is ready to quit.
“There are so many resources out there to help you quit tobacco,” said Walton. Treatment options span the gamut, including local resources as well as regular follow-up. Among the many options are:
How much these options cost depends on your insurance, but most plans started covering services for tobacco cessation after the Affordable Care Act passed.
Many commercial plans and Medicaid will cover some treatments at little or no cost to the patient. Medicare Part D plans are trickier when it comes to medications and do not cover nicotine replacement, as it’s available over the counter.
“For all patients, I recommend calling the 1-800-QUIT-NOW line,” said Walton.
When you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), you will be routed to the state that corresponds to your area code. It’s a free call and a free service. Quit line specialists can help you find affordable or free help to kick the nicotine habit.
“As a pharmacist, I will say — based on the chemistry of our brains and how addiction works — medications that target specific receptors or areas in the brain are going to be most effective. But I have seen many patients quit in many different ways,” said Walton.
Karl Logan, RRT, clinical coordinator for PeaceHealth’s cardiopulmonary rehab program, teaches the American Lung Association’s “Freedom From Smoking” classes in Florence, Oregon.
He noted that the ALA recommends medication combined with smoking cessation education. The course he teaches includes eight sessions covering many different aspects of quitting. “Some folks teach a shorter smoking cessation program, but I think eight sessions is most effective,” said Logan.
Regardless of the type or combination of tools you might use, experts agree there is one single most important thing you need to successfully quit smoking and that is….desire.
“I feel that if the patient is ready to quit, it really doesn't matter how they do it, they will be successful,” said Walton.
“Participants have to WANT to quit,” noted Logan. “If they are unmotivated they will never be successful.”
And many things might motivate people to quit
— like living longer and healthier or being around for their children or grandchildren.
One particular patient in Walton’s career really stands out.
She was a young, fulltime working single mother of four with extensive diabetes and asthma (not yet COPD). She had been smoking for 15 years due to peer pressure from other family members.
Cigarettes were taking a toll on her financially and mentally, and on her health with her asthma and diabetes increasingly getting worse.
She went to the emergency department with chest pain that turned out to be beginning signs of clogged arteries. It scared her because she wanted to be sure she was there for her kids as they had no other family nearby.
She started exercising and eating right. Her diabetes and weight improved but she still was smoking.
She was referred to me. We discussed all of the options and decided on one of the medications her insurance covered.
She quit smoking by day 10 and has not picked up a cigarette since.
It has been more than two years now. Her diabetes is basically non-existent, asthma is well controlled without any inhalers, and she hasn't been back in the ED.
Walton said: “Quitting might be the hardest thing you do, but you will gain so much more when you do.”
When you or your loved one is ready to quit smoking, ask your healthcare provider for help.