Is your tobacco habit hurting your lungs and your wallet? Have you tried to quit tobacco or nicotine in the past only to pick it up again? Did you know that the Hancock Health Connection Center has a tobacco cessation specialist who can offer support as you try to kick the habit?

Sarah House, a Hancock Health Connect Center support navigator, is also the onsite tobacco cessation specialist. In this role, Sarah works with people who want to quit but don’t know exactly where to start. Sarah has been a tobacco cessation specialist since 2023. She was already involved with the Hancock County Tobacco Free Coalition, making her a natural fit for the position. An intensive three-day training session through Rethink Tobacco Indiana gave Sarah the knowledge and tools she needed to help people put down tobacco for good.

What’s going on with nicotine and tobacco use?

Let’s start with the good news: Current smoking among adults has declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2021. Many people in their 20s and 30s heeded the lessons they learned in school about cigarettes and nicotine, although cigarette smoking remains slightly higher in men than women. The smoking rate also trends up in older age categories with fewer smokers between the ages of 18-24 but more smokers between the ages of 25-64.

But today’s youth are starting a new tobacco trend. They may be eschewing cigarettes, but they’re picking up the e-cigarettes. About 7.7% of American youth currently use e-cigarettes, making them the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school users.

“Now we have a vaping epidemic,” Sarah says. “The thing is, vaping is still new. We don’t have all the research yet on vaping. What we know is that there are a lot of unknowns.”

Tobacco use has long-term health implications and is considered the leading preventable cause of disease, death, and disability in the U.S. Smoking-related diseases include cancer, heart disease, lung disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tobacco can hurt more than just the smoker.  Secondhand smoke is linked to coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adults, and sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, asthma, and slowed lung grown in children.

Smoking can also impact generations. Epigenetics, which studies how cells can control gene activity, suggests that tobacco use can impact generations to come. Smokers are more likely to have children and grandchildren who struggle with health concerns like asthma, for instance.

The facts tell an alarming story, which can be powerful motivation to quit. But quitting isn’t easy. Sarah points out. Smoking is an addiction, affecting reward circuits within the brain and making the quit journey more difficult. That’s why Sarah and the Hancock Health Connection Center stand ready to help Hancock County residents who want to give up nicotine and tobacco for good.

Planning to quit with the Hancock Health Connection Center

When individuals come to the Connection Center seeking help with tobacco cessation, they’ll sit down with Sarah to do what’s known as a “quit intake.” Every quit journey starts with education about the science of nicotine and the associated mechanisms of addiction. While Sarah and the Connection Center staff members are not trained therapists, they do provide support and resources throughout the quit journey.  Sometimes that means weekly check-ins. Sometimes that might mean an in-person meeting one week and a phone call the next. Nobody must do this journey alone.

The next step involves creating a plan to quit smoking. Quit Now Indiana offers a five-step method for success that can be helpful:

Make the decision. Set a quit date and stick to it.

Build a support system. Let friends and family know you’re quitting and ask for their support.

Consider medication or other nicotine replacement options. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate resources.

Learn new behaviors and skills. Just as reaching for a cigarette or vape pen is a habit, so is grabbing a bottle of water or doing an enjoyable activity every day.

Be prepared to win. At the Connection Center, our support navigators often hear people say that they tried something and failed. That’s not true. Failing is just practice for success.

“Think of quitting as a practice,” Sarah says. “The more times I try to quit, the better I’ll get.”

Quitting nicotine or tobacco isn’t necessarily going to be easy. But this important decision can pay you back in better health outcomes for you and your family. If you’re ready to talk about quitting, call the Hancock Health Connection Center at 317-468-4231 or visit the office at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite G, Greenfield, during regular business hours.

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