MANSFIELD — Jaime Householder was 12 years old when she smoked her first cigarette.
For 38 years, the Mansfield woman smoked. Her addiction grew and grew to the point where she smoked two packs a day, equating to 40 cigarettes daily.
As her 50th birthday neared, the now 51-year-old thought enough is enough.
“I wanted to quit by my 50th birthday,” she said.
This August she celebrates two years of living tobacco-free.
She found support in her journey to a smoke-free life by participating in OhioHealth’s Tobacco Cessation Program. This free six-week program offers a comprehensive plan to stop tobacco use, several tobacco cessation classes, as well as support and counseling.
“We identify stressors and look at when and why they smoke,” said Kathy Johnson, program coordinator and smoking cessation specialist for OhioHealth.
Participants keep a journal to record when and how much they smoke at a time, what they’re doing at the time of each smoke and how badly they want to smoke. They track that for about a week and then start cutting down the number of cigarettes they smoke with the goal of quitting by the fourth session.
“We go over relaxation strategies and talk about how to get people behind you for support,” Johnson said.
Classes take place once a week and last between an hour-and-a-half to two hours. Johnson said she tries to be flexible when scheduling the days and times of classes to accommodate participants’ schedules.
Class size varies. “It depends,” Johnson said. “I could have two, I could have one, I could have four, I’ve had nine.”
Johnson walks participants through tapering techniques and helps them identify triggers. If it’s stress that causes people to want to smoke, they learn about new stress reliefs like guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and simply taking 10 deep breaths.
Participants are encouraged to use some sort of nicotine replacement, such as patches, lozenges or gum. Others who want to get off nicotine completely are advised to find a hand-to-mouth replacement like hard candy, tooth picks or straws.
“You need to have some kind of hand-to-mouth replacement because you’ve done that millions of times when you’re smoking,” Johnson said.
Johnson said many participants, like Householder, started smoking at a young age.
“I have people sometimes that come and they really want to quit, but they’re not sure that they can, so then we give them the encouragement and tools to do that,” Johnson said.
During quit week, Johnson makes sure to sends participants encouraging texts.
“I just let them know that I realize it’s hard, and they can also text me anytime they want,” she said.
“I think that people need to know that to stop smoking is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.”
Householder was successful after her second time taking the program.
“Kathy was gracious enough to let me do it twice,” Householder said. “I didn’t succeed the first time. I quit for like three or four weeks, and then I went back to smoking,” Householder said.
Householder said she appreciated Johnson’s help.
“She made herself very available for when you’re going nuts,” she said.
Quitting smoking takes more than a half-hearted attempt.
“You can’t just go for it half-hearted,” Householder said. “You gotta give it an effort.”
Instead of smoking, Householder adopted healthier habits like geocaching, hiking and walking.
Although it’s challenging not to pick up a cigarette again when facing stressful events, Householder said she knows better.
The financial aspect helps her stay motivated. Her first year she quit, she saved about $1,800.
“It’s an expensive habit,” she said.
By state, the average retail price of a pack of 20 cigarettes (full-priced brands), including federal and state excise taxes, ranged from $4.62 in Missouri to a high of $10.67 in New York, as of November 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further, the CDC notes that the cost of smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year, including nearly $170 billion for direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure.
Johnson said the tobacco cessation program encourages participants to plan ahead and envision potential triggers and how they can cope.
“Just because they quit in the six weeks doesn’t mean the battle’s over,” Johnson said.
For more information and to register for the program, call Johnson at 419-526-8455.
Smoking in Richland County
In 2016, 16 percent of Richland County adults were current smokers and 24 percent were considered former smokers, according to the Richland County Community Health Assessment.
The assessment also identified that seven percent of Richland County youth were current smokers, increasing to 14 percent of those ages 17 and older.
The American Cancer Society stated that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.
According to the CDC, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year worldwide.
"If the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030,” the CDC stated.
According to the American Cancer Society, deaths from cancer in the United States declined 27 percent from a peak in 1991, avoiding 2.6 million American deaths. One of the major causes of this drop is a decline in smoking over the last quarter-century, said Richland County Health Commissioner Martin Tremmel during the Eggs & Issues Breakfast earlier this year.
Of the cancer deaths that occurred in Richland County in 2018, 29 percent were lung (72 of 251). Lung diseases were the third leading cause of death in the county last year with 103 deaths.
“Without a doubt, smoking is the single greatest risk factor that you could possibly have for lung cancer,” said Dr. Vincent Daniel, a thoracic surgeon and chief of surgical oncology, during the OhioHealth Cancer Survivors Day Dinner and Program.
Over one-fourth of all cancer deaths are due to lung cancer.
"For this reason, we really need to be aggressive about how we go about diagnosing and treating lung cancer,” Daniel said. “Our ability to treat and cure patients with lung cancer are best when it’s at that early stage.”
Lung cancer screening
Those with a history of smoking are urged to undergo lung cancer screening, which is provided by OhioHealth.
Daniel previously shared a success story of one of his patients with lung cancer who was found to have a nodule in his right lung during a lung cancer screening chest CT. A subsequent biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of lung cancer.
“He had absolutely no symptoms from this (the nodule),” Daniel said. “He looked the epitome of health.”
Through the use of robotic technology, the patient underwent a minimally invasive surgery last fall. A more recent CT scan showed no sign of cancer recurrence, Daniel said.
“This is just one example of many examples that I’ve personally experienced where early CT detection can really significantly change the outcomes of patients with lung cancer,” Daniel said.
Tammy McChristy-Weaver, nurse navigator for OhioHealth Cancer Services at OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, said the lung cancer screening program launched at Mansfield Hospital in 2016 and currently has over 600 patients involved.
Patients are referred to the program by their primary care physician. The lung cancer screening guidelines follow those of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which includes recommendations for current or former smokers between ages 55–77. Smokers must have 30 or more pack years, and former smokers must have quit within the last 15 years. Patients may not have symptoms of lung cancer (some exceptions may apply).
The lung cancer screening program uses a low-dose chest CT scan to identify lung cancer at its earliest stages. The comprehensive, multidisciplinary screening program includes low-dose chest CT scan, dedicated radiologists, nurse navigation, patient education about screening and smoking cessation, tobacco-treatment specialists for patients ready to stop smoking, as well as follow-up evaluations and consultations with referring physicians.
“If they’re determined to be high-risk, we follow up with them more frequently than once year, otherwise we would scan them annually,” McChristy-Weaver said.
If the screening indicates cancer, the patient will undergo a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
“If we can get them screened early, and catch them in the early stage of lung cancer, they’re more treatable and curable at that point,” McChristy-Weaver said.