According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and cigarette smoking cost the United States more than $600 billion in 2018, including more than $240 billion in healthcare spending and nearly $372 billion in lost productivity. In 2020, an estimated 12.5 percent of U.S. adults currently smoked cigarettes.
It is a major industry that plagues the health and wallets of millions across the country.
Scioto County is witnessing results in its smoking cessation program, however, which is organized by Community Action Organization (CAO) of Scioto County and has helped many people quit smoking through services offered by CAO and Southern Ohio Medical Center.
“I’ve always wanted to quit smoking, especially since the first time I became pregnant, but it was nearly impossible,” said Crystal Truman, a CAO client in the Baby and Me Tobacco Free program. “When I became pregnant with my son, four years ago, I began cutting back slowly. I was taking the classes and was able to get a lot of help, because I was going in and talking with someone, knowing they were going to test me for nicotine and everything. It pretty much told me I was doing this. I had to.”
Truman has a long history of tobacco use, explaining that she was a childhood smoker who dealt with a lot of various family trauma and pressure. Her roots in smoking led to 30 years of tobacco use to ease stress as a learned coping mechanism.
“I started smoking when I was ten years old and I’m 40, so I’ve been smoking a long time,” Truman said. “It was really tough.”
Truman was able to completely quit smoking at six months pregnant and was successful after completion of the program, until she went back to work half a year later. The job she assumed was stressful and put a lot of pressure on her to remain calm. She finally broke down and returned to old habits once more, in hopes of finding a resolution to her stresses.
“I finally broke down after days and days of stress and went to a co-worker who I knew smoked, because I could smell it on her, and I told her to give me one,” Truman recalled.
Feeling defeated, Truman resumed her old ways again, until recently, upon news of a second child.
“I had already made up my mind to stop smoking, but the news of another baby made it real,” Truman said. “I had slowed down a lot when I had my first son, though. I don’t smoke in my home, because I hate the smell, and I can’t often get away from my son to smoke and I won’t smoke in front of him. So, I was only really smoking at work or when I could step outside. I was down to smoking a pack every three days or so. Then, I found out I was pregnant and decided I had to do this program again, because having someone to talk to and monitor my levels really helped the first time.”
Truman has been steady in resolve and quit tobacco use completely at two months pregnant, much earlier than before. She has been successful outside of a few occasions.
“I had a really bad time. It was very hard,” Truman recalled. “Back in December, we had the ten-year anniversary of my father’s passing. The next day was my birthday, and, in the following days, I held the hand of my father’s twin brother as he passed away and it was like losing him all over again. It still gets to me; it still hurts. I smoked two or three cigarettes that day, but I haven’t smoked since.”
Truman is now 37 weeks pregnant and is expecting a baby girl.
“It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been smoking for 30 years, and it was my go-to when I’ve been stressed out,” Truman said. “Now, I’m telling myself ‘No, I can’t do that,’ because of the help from this program and the presence of my kids.”
Truman explained that her children are her reason for quitting.
“I have a little boy who is about to turn four two weeks after his baby sister is born. I just can’t do that anymore because I have two reasons not to smoke,” Truman said. “Plus, all of the money I spent on cigarettes can now be spent on my children.”
Truman recalled abuse she faced that led to her smoking at an early age, and the addiction being tied to that trauma. She wants none of that for her children.
“I had a very, very rough life. I saw my mother beaten and nearly killed a few times. I saw drug abuse and trafficking. I saw alcoholism. Bad things happened in my life that shouldn’t have happened,” Truman recalled. “ I promised myself, that, if I ever had children, they would never see anything I saw growing up. So far, my son has never seen anything like that. I’m not much of a drinker, but I won’t even drink so much as a beer in front of my son. I’ve smoked outside and he has seen it on occasion, but I’ve never smoked in the car or inside. I never liked it and I’m happy to know I’m done, because that’s not a good example for my son.”
The mother also explained that she feels CAO’s program is a major reason she was able to give her children a mother who doesn’t smoke.
“It has actually helped me a lot, because I know someone else is holding me accountable for quitting and I’m actually getting help,” Truman said. “It is also helping with diapers and wipes and stuff I need for my kid, you know? Being a single mom, that helps a lot. Knowing I’m getting help and receiving bonuses for quitting is another reason to want to quit.”
Truman has a message for people still smoking that may want to quit.
“Do it, quit,” Truman challenged smokers. “That is the best thing you can do. Not only health wise, but, I mean, how much money is spent on cigarettes that could go to other things or a savings account?”
SOMC offers free smoking cessation classes for those that are interested in learning how to quit smoking. The six-week course, which is offered a variety of times throughout the year, is free to participants and all materials are included. Medication Support (nicotine replacement therapy of patches or gum) will be provided on a week-to-week attendance basis through the Scioto Foundation. Call 740-356-2552 for more information.
Call the Ohio Tobacco Quitline at 1.800.784.8669 and speak with an intake specialist to help you quit all forms of tobacco.
Call Sharon Otworth, Nurse Navigator at CAO 740.354.7545 for more information about the Baby & Me Tobacco Free Program, an evidence based, smoking cessation program proven to reduce the burden of tobacco on the pregnant and postpartum population as well as other smoking cessation services and activities.