Lehigh Regional Medical Center is one of the hospitals now offering tobacco cessation services and it's free.
Maxine Barrett, administers the six-week sessions, along with the support of Thomas Campo, director of the hospital's cardio pulmonary department.
Smoking is one of the things that kill thousands of Americans every year and Barrett said the Everglades HEC Service program, now underway in ten counties in mid and South Florida is one way to help the smokers to kick the habit.
"We hold session with 10 to 12 people and if individual attention is needed, we can even offer that," Barrett said.
Each year, 35 million people want to quit smoking. If you are one of those people, it is important to know that the Quit Smoking Now program is here to help.
Barrett says smokers can break the addiction and become tobacco free for life.
The six-week sessions continue and if the current session is full, the smoker can go on a waiting list and a he or she will be notified of the next session," Barrett said.
"This is so important to us. Smokers want to quit usually because of all the news that it causes so many medical problems. It affects the entire body and it affects the people around you when you smoke," she said.
"We are not here to lecture and that approach won't be taken. We are here for people who want to quit smoking or even think they may want to quit smoking and kick the habit," she said.
Getting the word out in the community is important for people, especially for so many people who have tried to quit and who have been unsuccessful."
Barrett even visits patients in the hospital to offer the program to anyone who is a smoker.
"As I said, this is a free service offered by the hospital and the Quit Smoking Now state program. Anything that is needed in the program is also supplied, such as patches and other items that will help the smoker to get rid of the need for nicotine.
The sessions are usually 60 minutes to an hour and a half, she said.
"We talk with each other in the session and we encourage ways to quit. Anyone who uses any kind of tobacco produce is welcome to join the program. We follow up afterwards to offer full support to those who have finished the program," Barrett said.
"We are trying to get the word out to all the physicians in the area who can make referrals. We want to get everyone in Lehigh who wants to quit smoking to use our services," she said.
She noted that there are some 4,000 chemicals in tobacco and that the use of tobacco can cause severe problems shortly after one starts to smoke or months and years later.
"We are very concerned to see you people beginning to smoke. It is no different in today's times than before. It is peer pressure. But the younger one is hooked on nicotine the worst it can be in later years," she said.
To enter the local free program, Barrett said the participant must be at least 18 years of age. Those interested in really trying to end the nicotine habit are encouraged to call Maxine Barrett at 239-303-0495 or email her at Barrett@LRMC.
The sessions are beginning this week. Call today to see if there are any openings left for this first session, Barrett said.
"Stop smoking is one of the most important things we could to improve the health of the population and it would over time save billions of dollars in health care costs, lost productivity at work and disability claims. Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable morbidity. Smoking cost the U.S more than $193 billion in 2004 and the figures are climbing today," she said.
Barrett said nicotine is the ingredient in cigarettes that causes addiction.
"But when it's linked with many social activities, it makes smoking an extremely difficult addiction to break. Quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts. Using counseling or medication alone increases the chance of a quit attempt being successful; the combination of both is even more effective," she said.
"We like to show people a healing timeline," Barrett said.
"Your blood pressure comes down to normal 20 minutes after you quit. The carbon monoxide drops to normal in eight hours and in 24 hours, your sense of smell and taste are improved.
"In two weeks, cough and dyspnea are resolving and in nine months, coughing, congestion, exercise tolerance, fatigue are better.
"After one year, the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker and in five years, your stroke risk is equal to a non-smoker. In 10 years, cancer of the throat, lung, and mouth are cut by 50 percent and between 10 and 15 years, there is no increased risk of heart disease and after that mortality rates are the same as someone who has never smoked," she said.
If you are unable to sign up for a full Quit Smoking Now class, you can call 877-819-2357 for more information and possible online support with free telephone-based tobacco cessation counseling. You can also call the Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (877) 822-6669 to join the local class or another in a different area of Florida.