Cessation program draws surprising number of smokers

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | 1:24 p.m. CDT; updated 3:58 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Health Department's Smoking Cessation Program has exceeded expectations, serving more than double the anticipated amount of smokers in its first year.  

When first applying for the Missouri Foundation for Health Smoking Cessation grant, Health Department officials estimated they would serve 800 people in two years with their smoking cessation program. A little over a year later, the service has helped more than 950 smokers in their effort to kick the habit.

Quitters' helpers

There are several different resources available for those interested in kicking the habit.

The Columbia/Boone County Health Department's Smoking Cessation Program is available through December. For more information or to set up an appointment, call: 874-7356

Other free, on-line smoking cessation programs are available, including, which is sponsored by the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation, and, sponsored by the American Lung Association.

There are a variety of other treatment options that can make quitting easier.

Over the counter

Nicotine patches: Most are designed to be worn for 24 hours and can prevent many withdrawal symptoms such as tenseness, irritability, drowsiness and a lack of concentration. $4 per day.

Nicotine gum: The gum provides nicotine to the brain more quickly than patches and is designed to take the edge off of cigarette cravings. $4.50 per day.

Nicotine lozenges: In the form of hard candy, these last 20 to 30 minutes, slowly dissolving in the mouth. $6 to $12 per day.

Prescription only

Nicotine nasal spray: The spray is a better option for highly dependent smokers because it provides a more rapid hit as the nicotine is absorbed through the nasal membranes and reaches the bloodstream quickly. $5 to $15 per day.

Nicotine inhaler: While it looks like a cigarette, the inhaler transfers nicotine to the mouth instead of the lungs and at a much slower pace than cigarettes. About $15 per day.

Non-nicotine pill, Zyban: Approved in 1997, this medication is also sold as an anti-depressent under the name Wellbutrin. Usage begins while the individual is still smoking and continues for seven to 12 months, although length is individualized. $2 per day.

Chantix Tablets: Only the second nicotine-free smoking cessation drug to be approved by the FDA, Chantix reduces withdrawl symptoms while decreasing the satisfaction of smoking.

All of the above information is from the American Lung Association Web site,


Linda Cooperstock, public health planner for the Health Department, said despite the overwhelming number of those interested in the program, the department has been able to serve each person who has requested help. Not everyone remains dedicated to the full eight-week session, opening spots for new clients, she said.

The program, which began in May 2007, provides nicotine patches and weekly counseling sessions at no cost to participants. Cooperstock said the combination of patches and counseling has proven more effective than either method on its own.

"The success rate is fairly low if you decide to do it on your own," she said.

Cooperstock said nicotine patches can increase a person's success rate by 7 to 10 percent, and the rate is much higher when coupled with counseling.

Smoking cessation counselor Karisha Trentham, who has worked at the clinic for a year, said while she has never smoked, her role in the program has opened her eyes to the seriousness of addiction.

"In talking with people and hearing their stories, these people really do need help," Trentham said.  

According to a recent survey taken of 286 individuals who enrolled in the Health Department's program between 2007 and 2008, 16 percent completed the eight-week session.

"One of the reasons we only have a 16 percent completion rate is because people are not prepared for behavior changes," Cooperstock said. "It's not an addiction, but a habit."

Cooperstock explained that for many smokers, the solution to successful cessation lies in making little changes in their lives. Daily routine alterations, such as changing the place where one usually drinks their morning coffee, can make an impact.

"They see that it's effort, and they stop," she said of those who quit the program.

Some other people may not stay for the full program because they don't need eight weeks to successfully kick the habit. Though only 16 percent completed the program, the survey found that 25 percent reported they were able to quit smoking.

Trentham said the counseling sessions allow participants to talk about what is bothering them the most.

"Sometimes we do have people slip up, and they want to talk about it, and that's OK," Trentham said.

Cooperstock said the counselors also make an effort during sessions to stress the financial impact of smoking. Among the handouts provided is a paper calculator showing smokers the national average of money spent on cigarettes based on the amount smoked over a span of time. For a smoker who buys one pack a day, the monthly cost is $136.20 based on national averages. While Missouri has the lowest taxes on cigarettes in the country, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators Web site, the cost still adds up.

"You'd be surprised by the number of people who can't tell you how much they spend on smoking in a month," Cooperstock said.

She said another misconception smokers have is that nicotine patches are more expensive than cigarettes. Cooperstock explained this is because of the way the two products are packaged; nicotine patches are sold in one- to two-week packs, while cigarettes can bought each day. So while an individual purchase may seem to cost less, cigarettes are more expensive over the one- or two-week period, she said.

"That's been a hard thing to come across, the fact that people don't understand that it's so expensive to buy cigarettes," Cooperstock said.

In the survey of participants, 80 percent of parents enrolled said they wanted to quit because of their children. But Cooperstock noted that parents are often less able to keep counseling appointments than those participants without children. Trentham agreed and said she has noticed that mothers have the most trouble quitting, which she thinks could be because of the busy lifestyle they lead.

Because the department has noticed the specific difficulties parents have with the program, they have applied for a Missouri Foundation for Health Assessment grant that would allow them to adapt the cessation program for parents.  

The department won't know until November if they have received the grant, and Cooperstock said the current smoking cessation program is set to end in December.

While counseling resources will still be available, she said they won't have funding available for free nicotine patches. Columbia's Family Health Center, a current partner in the cessation program, will continue counseling services after December.  


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