by LAURA HAYES
Having trouble kicking that smoking habit? Well, just in time for the New Year, Winona Health is offering its winter smoking cessation program. In this four-week program, facilitator Lynn Sprain will help participants understand why they smoke and give them helpful tips and techniques to stay smoke free.
Sprain has been at the helm of the program for around 20 years, leading groups with numbers anywhere from 12 to 20. She likens the program to a round table discussion. “I think it’s great for those to join the group to know that they’re not the only ones trying to quit,” she said.
She estimates that it can take a smoker anywhere from three to 10 attempts before they successfully quit smoking.
“Most people have to practice quitting before they’re successful,” Sprain said, adding that most of the program participants had tried to quit smoking before.
She said that most people will start smoking again because of a problem, like a job loss or a death in the family, or stressful situations like getting a flat tire. “Smoking a cigarette won’t inflate your tire,” Sprain would tell her participants. “It probably won’t fix what’s wrong.”
Instead, Sprain encourages the participants to be honest with themselves and choose something other than a cigarette. These techniques, like how to not choose to smoke that cigarette, are covered throughout the course of Sprain’s program.
According to Sprain, each night of the program focuses on a different topic. On day one, Sprain assesses participants. The second day, Sprain discusses the withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting, like irritability, dry mouth, insomnia, or an increased appetite.
Research shows, Sprain explained, that 70 to 90 percent of smokers continue the habit because of the withdrawal symptoms. “They’re afraid of what nicotine withdrawal does to them,” she said.
Sprain instead gives participants techniques to cope with the symptoms like relaxation exercises or encouraging them to drink more water. Since a lot of smoking is habitual, Sprain passes along tips to force cigarettes and smoking to become a conscious decision, like rating their cravings or sticking pieces of paper in the cigarette carton.
“They sometimes smoke a cigarette and don’t realize it’s in their mouth,” Sprain said.
By the third night, she asks that the participants go without smoking for 24 hours. In that night, Sprain focuses on nutrition. She explained that while there’s an obvious oral factor in smoking, cigarettes can affect smokers’ taste buds. “People tend to get more of a sweet tooth when they quit,” Sprain said.
To fight against the oral factor, she suggests that smokers use gum or nicotine replacement Nicorette gum. Sprain advises participants not to keep unhealthy snacks and to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
The final night tackles the emotional impact. Sprain said that the group setting is an encouraging incentive. Past groups have continued to meet after the program concludes, becoming a support network. Sprain also offers to meet with participants individually.
She encourages participants to come back for the other sessions in April or September. “I would say now is as good a time as any [to quit smoking],” Sprain said. “Don’t wait for the perfect time.”
The program is free to attend. It begins on January 7 and runs for four weeks, every Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. Meetings are held in the Parkview Conference Room on the first floor of Winona Health on Mankato Avenue.
Sprain encourages participants to RSVP by calling her at 507-474-3324, but walk-ins on the first night are welcome.