Healthier habits just a phone call away

Friday, May 16th 2008, 5:48 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

Co-workers Lucas Leon and Ariana Ree occasionally take smoke breaks together. 

"I try to smoke (only) three to five cigarettes a day. That's kinda my limit. I don't want to try to smoke too much more than that," said Leon, who has been smoking for 11 years.

According to state health department, about 676,000 Oklahomans, nearly 19 percent of the total state's population, light up every day. The department's Web site also states that tobacco-related illnesses kill about 5,700 Oklahomans each year.  

"I don't think I'm ready to quit right now. I enjoy smoking. I don't think I smoke to the extent that it will make that much of an impact," Ree said, who started smoking at 17.

Just one to five cigarettes a day nearly triples a person's risk of dying of heart disease, according to a 2005 study that appeared in the journal Tobacco Control.

The chief medical officer at Free & Clear, a company devoted to helping people improve on healthy behaviors, said lives are cut far too short because of tobacco use.

"This is not just about shaving off a few years when you're 70. Of people who die in their middle age, one in three to one in four will die as a result of smoking. And when they die, on average, they're losing 20 years of their life," said Tim McAfee, chief medical officer at Free & Clear.

Because of the misconceptions and prevalence of smoking addiction, McAfee said his company has set up a recommended method for helping smokers quit.

A 2008 U.S. Public Health Service report highlights effective cessation efforts, one of which is individual, group and telephone counseling. Hotlines are now available in every state, including Oklahoma, helping smokers help kick the habit.

"The counselor on the other end would try to find out some more information about why they were calling, what their past experience is. Had been quitting, how interested they were. How much they smoked. And then develop a quit plan," said McAfee.

Although, many smokers, including Leon and Ree, have tried to quit "cold turkey," many don't succeed with this method, said McAfee.  The hotline method is much more effective, he said.

If you need assistance to quit smoking you can call 1-800-Quit-Now.