Quitting smoking may be one of the most difficult ordeals a person has to endure, but the University Health System offers hope to students wishing to kick the habit by offering group support sessions through its Tobacco Consultation Service.

The latest program began Wednesday, but new sessions are offered each month.

The program is designed to help quitters manage the physical, as well as psychological, withdrawals associated with quitting smoking.

Program Director Linda Thomas said she highly encourages participants to use physical aides such as gum, patches or medicine such as Zyban, but that non-physical factors are important too.

“The majority of time (in the classes) is spent on the psychological aspects of tobacco abuse,” she said.

Thomas said a person smoking one pack of cigarettes a day has enough practice puffing that it becomes second nature. She said the program employs different techniques to help smokers avoid the impulse to light up.

“Smokers tend to smoke cigarettes in the same places,” she said. “Sometimes it helps to drive a different route to work, or chew on cinnamon sticks or frozen grapes.”

Participants in the program can chart their success by taking periodic carbon monoxide measurements. Thomas said one participant had an unusually high carbon monoxide level of 51 parts per million, and was able to lower it to three parts per million with the help of the program.

“It was really encouraging for her to see results.”

She said group sessions offer several advantages for smokers.

“You’re getting the support of a lot of people going through the same process that you are,” she said.

The success rate of an individual quitting on his or her own and staying smoke-free after 12 months is 2.5 to 5 percent, but the rate of participants in the group is 37 to 40 percent. Thomas attributes much of this to the tri-monthly follow-ups that the program conducts for a year after participants quit.

Thomas said she hasn’t seen much undergraduate participation in the programs.

She said her program could be doing more on campus to get students involved, but a main problem is most likely the lack of desire by students.

“Younger people don’t see themselves as being addicted,” she said. “They say things like ‘I’ve decided to quit when I’m 25.'”

Student smokers have tried varied methods for quitting including patches, gum, herbal cigarettes, cold turkey and quitting with friends, but many hadn’t heard of the seven-week program.

LSA junior Sara Ceaser said she thought quitting with people she knew would be more effective than breaking the habit in a support group of strangers.

“I smoke in situations where I’m used to smoking,” she said. “The people around me would have to quit too … it’s too tempting.”

Engineering junior Frank Duff said he has no plans on quitting during school.

“I don’t think it would work right now, just because I’m in school and there’s too much else to concentrate on,” he said.

John Cheriane, an LSA junior, summed up the general student sentiment, saying “I don’t think finding a support group is the problem. … I think the problem is sub-consciously not actually wanting to quit.”

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