Norman health care workers are encouraging residents to consider healthier lifestyles by kicking tobacco products following a recent proclamation from Governor Kevin Stitt declaring January 18-25 OK to quit smoking.
According to OK to Quit, more than 580,000 Oklahoma adults smoke, as do 30,000 high school students, which ranks Oklahoma 36th in the US for smoking consumption.
Brooke Walling, nurse practitioner at Norman Regional, said the new year is a great time to quit smoking.
“We are in our third week of the year. We want to encourage patients to continue [with their resolutions],” she said. “I tell people it’s never too late to quit or for healing to happen.”
Walling said that quitting smoking goes a long way for patients because smoking is especially bad for those who are experiencing different illnesses. She said it’s important for smokers to work closely with a primary care provider to come up with a plan to quit tobacco.
“There are many medications that can be prescribed and there is 1-800-QUIT-NOW that offers help and quit smoking, but there are prescription medications that can be started by a primary care physician to help them achieve their goals ,” she said.
According to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, callers can receive several products and services, including free patches, chewing gum or lozenges, coaching calls, web coaching, supportive text messages, helpful emails, and a quitting guide.
Mary Bixler, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland County Health Department, said the county also offers resources.
“Something our health educators do is introduce the health effects of tobacco, as well as e-cigarettes to schools and nonprofits, and distribute smoking cessation resources,” she said.
Health educators work closely with Norman Public Schools to ensure students have safe pathways out of substance abuse.
Bixler said health is most likely achieved when users can set aside stigmas related to addiction.
“I see [Oklahoma Tobacco Hotline] post a lot of information,” she said. “I like to share quite a bit of their content on our social media because they tell stories of people who quit.”
Oklahoma Tobacco Hotline also has information for those without insurance or a primary care provider.
Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of illness and death in Oklahoma.
“Tobacco users are dealing with an addiction,” he said. “Also, they’re trying to change a behavior and habit that they’ve probably been in for more than half their lives.
“Thankfully, there are free resources available to help people get their lives back from smoking and quit for good.”
Walling advises tobacco users to take small steps when quitting.
“It takes a lot of patience from our patients,” she said. “I try to get them to move their cigarettes to a different place, so they have to go to a locked cabinet or go outside for a smoke.”
According to Walling, the body craves natural chemicals through patterns, not just toxic chemicals, and that bodies can recreate some of these natural chemicals through patterns without introducing them into harmful chemicals.
“Cigarette users are used to having something in their mouth or between their fingers, so I recommend getting cinnamon toothpicks,” she said. “Sometimes they may suck on one to feel like they have something in their mouth, but they don’t have to smoke at the time,” she said.
Walling advises against vaping as a way to recovery, as her patients sometimes suggest. One problem with vaping is that the nicotine content isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, making it difficult to know what users are putting into their bodies.
“With vaporizers, like Juul pods, they can build up the amount of nicotine to be equal to the amount in a pack of cigarettes, and you never really know the actual dosage,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest concern from a health perspective. When they vape, I don’t know how much they’re actually consuming or how much they’re actually absorbing.