COLUMBUS — At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1980, Rebecca Rayman went from smoking two packs of cigarettes a day to zero.
“I found out I was pregnant,” said Rayman, who is executive director of East Central District Health Department. “Smoking can have serious effects on unborn children.”
The local health department's 2015 Community Health Assessment found that between 46 and 70 percent of smokers tried to quit between 2011 and 2013. However, most quitters aren’t successful on their first attempt.
It took Lisa Perrin eight to 10 tries before she made her resolution to stop smoking.
“I found my why,” said Perrin, manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation services at Columbus Community Hospital. “That was because I was pregnant.”
Getting pregnant is apparently a great way to quit smoking, but it’s probably not for everyone.
Both Rayman and Perrin recommend finding resources to help, whether through a physician who can prescribe a nicotine replacement aide or the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline, which is offering a two-week supply of nicotine replacement aides for free through Jan. 31.
“For some patients the cost of nicotine replacement therapy or the cost of those medications are expensive,” said Rayman. “So this is a great time to quit while the state is able to offer you the medicines free of charge.”
Perrin said many smokers are used to a cycle of highs and lows that comes with smoking and withdrawal, so nicotine replacements can help them adjust.
“The nicotine gives you this rush and kind of calms the system,” she said. “After a while the body starts to crave it again.”
The body can start experiencing nicotine withdrawal as soon as 30 minutes after having a cigarette.
Rayman and Perrin both discourage people from using e-cigarettes to kick the tobacco habit.
“It doesn’t break the actual habit of smoking,” said Perrin. “There’s not a lot of regulations, so you don’t know what you’re getting in your e-cigarette.”
A doctor or Quitline counselor can also help patients come up with strategies to stay smoke-free. Managing a physical addiction to nicotine is only one component of quitting.
“We have habits that we form,” said Rayman. “If you have a cigarette every time you eat, after every meal you’ll want one. If you have a cigarette when you drink, then every time you drink you’ll feel like you need a cigarette in your hand.”
Rayman avoided places where she could smoke, which was a lot harder to do in the 1980s than it is today. One place she couldn’t smoke was in her bathtub.
“I took more baths than I’d taken my whole life,” she said.
Perrin said that for many, smoking is a way of relieving stress. So she recommends finding other stress-relief methods such as deep breathing or exercise.
“I find healthier options, such as exercise,” said Perrin. “I run.”
One motivator can be the health benefits of quitting. Within two to five years, the risk of suffering a stroke drops to the same level as non-smokers, according to Perrin, and within five years of quitting the cancer risk is cut in half.
Rayman and Perrin said they see a lot of people look at quitting when a smoker they know is diagnosed with cancer or a pulmonary disease, or has a heart attack or stroke.
Another motivator is the cost savings. Rayman said research has shown that when the price of cigarettes goes up, more people quit. Before discovering she was pregnant, Rayman was considering quitting because the price of a pack rose to 50 cents.
“Back in 1980, I was like, ‘Wow, do I really want to pay 50 cents for a pack of cigarettes?’” she said.
One downside is she gained weight in addition to her pregnancy. But when her husband decided to quit, he used a cessation aide and didn’t see a significant weight gain.
But no one is suggesting the process is easy.
“There’s still days today that I want to smoke,” Perrin said.