Kicking the Habit

You’ve just eaten a wonderful steak dinner. What’s next? If you’re a smoker, the end of a good meal may trigger a cigarette craving. If you’re trying to quit, one of the keys is knowing your triggers and how to work around them.

Quitting smoking is best for your overall good health. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, and can lead to life-threatening or chronic conditions including heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, COPD and more. That’s why Avera supports the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 20.

The American Cancer Society marks the third Thursday of November each year to encourage smokers to make a plan to quit for good or quit smoking for that day. By quitting — even for one day — smokers take an important step toward a healthier life.

Everyone knows the benefits of quitting tobacco — it saves money and can prevent a number of chronic conditions. But breaking the cycle of tobacco addiction still can be a struggle. Nicotine is a drug that is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine.

Helpful resources exist for both the emotional and physical aspects of nicotine addiction. The following resources are available:

  • Your primary care practitioner can recommend programs, nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medications.
  • The South Dakota QuitLine, 1-866-SD-QUITS (1-866-737-8487), offers free coaching and free cessation medication. Learn more at
  • Avera Corporate Health Services offers smoking cessation support groups and health coaching. To learn more, call 605-322-3875.
  • Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota offers tobacco counseling. Learn more by calling 605-977-7000.

Avera Health Plans offers an eight-week tobacco cessation program that includes weekly group sessions at no expense to health plan members.

I recently worked with a construction company — an industry known for high tobacco use — to help employees quit. A major component of the Avera Health Plans program was the support group setting.

We had a good discussion about “this is what worked for me, and why don’t you guys try that, too?” when it came to working around common triggers.

Here are some common tips for quitting, as well as some ideas shared in the tobacco cessation group:

  • Go out to the garage and work on a project
  • Go outside and play with the dog or take the dog for a walk
  • Tell family and friends about your plans to quit and ask for their support
  • Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car and at work
  • Stock up on oral substitutes — sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws or toothpicks
  • Keep active — try walking, short bursts of exercise, or other activities and hobbies
  • Drink lots of water and juices
  • Avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong
  • Avoid people who are smoking
  • Drink less alcohol or avoid it completely
  • Change your routine — take a different route to work, drink tea instead of coffee, try new foods, etc.

Each week the group focuses on a different topic, including education about the health consequences of smoking. The program also:

  • Provides resources to help you  stop smoking, which can include prescriptions or other cessation options
  • Helps you learn about your addiction, triggers and strategies to overcome it

Group sessions can be arranged at your workplace through your employer. If a group program is not available, we can work with you one on one.

For more information on the Avera Health Plans cessation program, contact me at 605-322-4789.

By Debbie Lancto

Health and Wellness Champion at Avera Health Plans

, , ,