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Groups formed to help smokers quit

By Staff | Jun 2, 2011
Eliseo Rangel
Karen Doll

If you are a smoker and just may be interested in quitting, there’s a program for you in Lee County, a support program that offers you information about the bad things that can happen to you as a smoker and offers ways to quit the habit without being judgmental.

Eliseo Rangel, who is employed by Quit Smoking Now is a tobacco cessation specialist and offers advice to those who are interested.

“It’s a support and behavior modification environment that we offer and even though every group is different, our goals are the same, to help people beat an addiction,” Rangel said. “I don’t use scare tactics; smokers know that smoking can be a waste of money and can be a potential cause for heart and lung disease. We are here to support them if they choose to try to stop that addiction,” he said.

Support meetings in Lehigh are held at Dr. Alaa El-Gendy’s Florida Lung and Sleep Association building at 2625 Lee Blvd. But Rangel said support group meetings can be held at any location in Southwest Florida. To get in touch with Rangel, call 239-989-9809. The funding comes from the 1997 tobacco settlement stic.neu.edu/Fl/flsettle.htm‘>stic.neu.edu/Fl/flsettle.htm.

El-Gendy, who has patients suffering from lung disease because of smoking, offered his place of business in Lehigh at no charge to help people break the habit. Ironically enough, if some of those people quit smoking, they are less likely to need the services of El-Gendy, but the physician, Rangel said, is more interested in a person’s health than he is getting that person’s business someday. The funding comes from the 1997 tobacco settlement

Rangel said nicotine addiction is more rampant now than ever even though there is a stigma for most people that smoking is bad. Rangel said many people depend on a cigarette as a way to relax or relieve stress from a day of work or for almost any other reason.

Never a smoker himself, Rangel said he is always asked the question – did he smoke before he became a professional working with people to stop their addictions to cigarettes. He said he has a grandfather who smoked and is on an oxygen tank today and must carry it around everywhere he goes. “It is not a good life for him,” he said.

Rangel noted the seriousness of being addicted to nicotine saying it kills more people than AIDS, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicide suicide, motor vehicle crashes and fires combined. “That’s always a surprise when we tell people those facts,” he said.

More than 400,000 American people die every year, one in every five deaths, is attributed to smoking. And add to that fact, he said almost 3,000 people under 18 become regular smokers every day. One of the people who has attended Rangel’s weekly support group meetings at El-Gendy’s office is Karen Doll of Lehigh who said she has been a longtime smoker.

She said the support she and others in the group were given was very helpful.

“He gave us a lot of information and we talked about the addiction and what can happen. He never made me feel bad for being a smoker. He didn’t use scare tactics. Smokers already know what can happen due to the addiction. He offered positive discussions and it seems to work,” she said. As a result of the meetings, Doll said she has given up cigarettes and is not suffering terrible withdrawal feelings.

Literature provided online notes that the group, Quit Smoking Now, holds meetings in a multi county area through: • Offering continuing education to practicing health professionals • Providing cessation services for tobacco users through the “Quit Smoking Now” program • Training for health professions students • Community involvement The Quit Smoking Now program will help you achieve the goal to quit tobacco use for good, according to AHEC which is the organization under which Quit Smoking Now operates. In addition to resources for quitting on this website, Quit Smoking Now offers classes in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state for free.

You can visit its Resources & Classes area, listed by county, to find classes near you. The Florida AHEC Network provides free, quality medical learning and clinical skills training modules for Florida’s health care students and professionals. Those interested may view their online tobacco training CME and CEU opportunities, too.

Of special interest is the following timeline for those who give up smoking: After 20 minutes of not smoking, your blood pressure drops to normal and your pulse rate drops to normal with temperatures in your hands and feet increasing to normal.

After eight hours of no smoking, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal and your oxygen level in your blood increases to normal. With two full days without nicotine, your ability to smell and taste is enhanced. From two to 12 weeks after smoking, you can expect coughing and sinus congestion to decrease, a shortness of breath will decrease and you will experience an overall energy increase.

Your lungs will have an increased ability to self-clean and reduce the chance of infection. Rangel says he is proud of the Quit Smoking Now program and said over the past year, he has worked with some 700 people in several counties in Southwest Florida.

Support meetings can be held during the day or night. He said he really appreciated the support of Dr. Alaa El-Gendy who does not charge for meeting at his building. Usually meetings are held once a week. Those who want to quit smoking or to talk about the possibility of quitting, are welcome to contact Rangel at 239-989-9809. He can be emailed at e.rangel@live.com.

He can tell you of future meetings in Lee County. Rangel’s success in helping others keeps him going, he says. When asked why he chose this type of work, he said that during college while he was attempting to get his master’s degree, he did a lot of research on smoking and its addiction. “It became something I wanted to do to help others,” he said.

And those who have met with him will tell you very quickly that he is an ideal person who will talk to you about your habit without ever finding fault with you. His outgoing friendly personality also has to be part of the reason that he is able to help so many people.

You can also call toll free to 1-877-819-2357 for more information and to find support groups in other areas of the state.