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|Amber Brooks • 10/12/16|
The Short Version: A smoking habit can have serious repercussions on your health, your family, and your love life. To help you (or someone you love) quit for good, check out the resources at the American Lung Association, a volunteer non-profit focused on saving lives and preventing lung disease. Championing everyone’s right to breathe healthy air since 1904, the organization promotes supportive programs, exercises, events, and research to help smokers overcome their addiction and to inform loved ones about what they can do. To date, the American Lung Association has helped over 1 million smokers find the motivation they need to lead healthier lives.
When I was a growing up, my brothers and I played a game called “Steal Uncle Rick’s Cigarette Packs.” We’d either rush him all at once, overwhelming him with our small reaching fingers and high-pitched giggles, or we’d sneak the pack out of his jacket pocket when he wasn’t paying attention. I don’t think he enjoyed this game of Keep Away quite as much as we did.
“I’m under attack!” he’d yell to his sisters, who’d just laugh.
Nobody approved of his smoking habit, but we weren’t really trying to help him quit — mostly we were just holding him temporarily hostage so he couldn’t leave us to go and smoke. My mom had a strict never-ever-smoke-near-my-kids policy, so her little brother would slink outside for a half hour or so and come back smelling funny.
Tobacco addiction is a deeply personal and detrimental issue, not only because of the health complications it poses but also because of its potential impact on loved ones. Even though my uncle was the youngest of the adults in my family, he’d always be the first to sit out when we played basketball or volleyball. From the sidelines, he’d be huffing and puffing, but still cheering the rest of us on as we played without him.
Coming to the aid of smokers like my uncle, the American Lung Association is committed to preventing lung disease across the U.S. For the past 112 years, the group has advocated to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. In 2016, the association invested more than $6.5 million in lung disease research.
Bill Blatt, the National Director of Tobacco Programs for the American Lung Association, knows how tobacco usage can seep into your personal life, even if you yourself aren’t a smoker. His father smoked for 40 years until a class sponsored by the association gave him the push he needed to quit.
“He stayed smoke-free for the rest of his life,” Bill said proudly. “Years later, when I got this job here, that was a really special thing for both of us.”
People quit smoking for a variety of reasons: their health, their dating prospects, their loved ones, but they all need a support system. The American Lung Association, alongside friends and family, can fill that role for smokers. Since 1904, the organization’s counselors have stuck with smokers through the long haul, helping them regain their health and confidence.
“We firmly believe every smoker and tobacco user can quit smoking. People can do it,” he said. “As long as people keep trying and keep learning from their past tries, they will be able to quit smoking.”
Some smokers in the dating world may feel judged because of their smoking habit. Nonsmoking daters may consider smoking as an automatic deal-breaker and dismiss a date at the first sign of a cigarette. Just a few decades ago, smoking indoors (even on flights!) was socially acceptable, but today the smoking population is at an all-time low — only one in six Americans smoke cigarettes, thanks in part to increased awareness of the health risks.
Still, 40 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes, and cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the nation, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every years, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smokers feeling the pressure to quit don’t need to battle their addiction alone. The American Lung Association has spent decades honing their process and offers many supportive tools to get people to their goals.
The American Lung Association’s resources are a breath of fresh air to smokers who feel isolated in society. Backed by over a century’s worth of experience, the professionals and volunteers working for the organization have a positivist attitude about a smoker’s ability to quit.
“The whole point of our programs is to help people feel more settled and secure in their new nonsmoking life,” Bill said. “If you reach out to us, no matter who you are, we can help you.”
The following four programs are just a few that are run by the American Lung Association and that provide smokers and their loved ones a personal support network to promote healthier habits.
Among the most effective programs in the country, Freedom From Smoking has helped hundreds of thousands of adults quit smoking over the past 35 years. It was the first nationally available program dedicated to helping smokers quit.
In eight face-to-face group sessions, smokers find solidarity and learn more about the lasting health complications that come from tobacco usage. Experienced counselors work with smokers for several weeks, helping them create a quit plan and set a quit date while recommending tactics (from medication to exercise) tailored to the individual’s needs.
“It’s a totally supportive, non-judgmental program,” Bill assured us. “The fact that you’re trying to quit is excellent, and we’re here to help you.”
Freedom From Smoking® Plus takes advantage of online and mobile tools to bring increased mobility and convenience to anyone who wants to stop using tobacco products. In a series of nine lessons, smokers can easily make a plan to quit and track their progress.
The program can take as little as six weeks or as long as a year, depending on the individual’s relapses or preferred pace.
The modules are completely mobile-friendly, so if someone is away from their desktop and feeling a craving coming on, they can access engaging tools from their phone.
The American Lung Association stays with people every step of the way as they give up their addiction. The Lung Helpline and Tobacco Quitline is a free service open to callers every day of the week. You can also live chat with a counselor from the website using your email address to connect.
The call lines are staffed by registered nurses, respiratory therapists, certified tobacco treatment specialists, and other counselors who can provide knowledgeable guidance for smokers and nonsmokers. If you have a question about lung health, simply call 1-800-LUNGUSA or submit your question online.
The American Lung Association provides smokers with a community of encouraging voices. Finding a group of people who understand what you’re going through is as simple as attending an American Lung Association event. These events, held throughout the country, often revolve around exercise or community involvement, so smokers become more engaged and active while walking, cycling, climbing, or volunteering.
“Our events are in support of lung health,” he said. “We have lots of things you can do together to raise awareness and stay healthy.”
The events are also how the non-profit organization generates funding. Through public donations, the Fight for Air Climbs and LUNG FORCE Walks help raise awareness and funds for lung health education, advocacy, and research.
If you’re looking for ways to get involved, you can sign up to be a volunteer for the American Lung Association. Lending their time, energy, and experience, smokers and nonsmokers come together to raise awareness, share personal stories, and help support the cause against lung disease.
If your significant other is a smoker, your influence can be a powerful motivator in their quit journey. Whether one or both of you is quitting, the most important thing is to offer reassurance, even when your loved one slips up. Sometimes a habitual smoker has to go through multiple “practice quits,” as Bill calls them, before being ready to finally have that last cigarette.
Of the 42.1 million smokers in the U.S., about 46% are actively trying to quit, but it’s hard to do it alone. Being a smoker’s cheerleader can have a lasting impact. My uncle didn’t have someone by his side encouraging him to quit for real — just us kids playing tricks on him — and he never did kick the habit.
Bill advises anyone who wants to help their partner, friend, or family member quit smoking to have a supportive, accepting attitude. The way to help someone end their addiction isn’t by shunning them, but holding their hand and offering steadfast support and encouragement.
The American Lung Association provides resources focused specifically on how to help someone quit. Nagging, scolding, and pleading doesn’t work, the site advises, instead you should “give lots of praise and offer rewards for getting through a day, week, or month without smoking.”
“Be honest with one another and stay supportive no matter what happens,” Bill said. “Everyone is an individual. What works for you isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else, so everyone has to find their own pathway to quitting.”
The American Lung Association gives unconditional support to smokers who may feel ostracized by a nonsmoking society. Rather than marginalizing people like my uncle who feel powerless to quit, trained staffers and passionate volunteers encourage smokers to take control of their lives and health.
If you want to quit smoking — or you want to help someone you love quit smoking — the American Lung Association’s programs and modules can keep you motivated along the way. A tobacco addiction shouldn’t be the cause of lost time with people you love, and there are plenty of opportunities to get help and support.
The nonprofit empowers individuals to make meaningful changes in their everyday lives. “Whether you’re a tobacco user or you love a tobacco user, let’s stick together in this. Remember, everyone can quit,” Bill said.