Free tobacco cessation classes offered at Greene County General

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do you want to stop using tobacco products? Greene County General Hospital is offering free tobacco cessation classes beginning Jan. 26.

The class will meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays Jan. 26 through March 30 in the Violet Newton Conference Room located on the ground level of Greene County General Hospital.

The classes are taught by Chris Sparks, RN, who works for Greene County Home Healthcare. Assisting with the classes are Racheall Lengacher, a respiratory therapist who manages the hospital's Respiratory Therapy Department, and Lana Heath, a respiratory therapist.

"It's a free opportunity for them (participants) to have a healthier life. We offer free patches and gum and free support. My philosophy is you have to want to quit and you have to believe that you can. It's like any other addiction -- you have to believe in yourself," Sparks said.

Sparks said the atmosphere in the classes is very laid back and comfortable.

Since she began teaching tobacco cessation classes in February 2002, Sparks boasts a 49 percent quit rate among participants. However, with one of her most recent class, 100 percent of participants stopped using tobacco products -- cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.

Sparks, who successfully quit smoking several years ago, offers an insider perspective for her students.

"The hardest thing I have ever done is quit smoking. This is kind of my pay it forward. If I can help one person, it's worth it," Sparks said. "I 100 percent believe that my experience in quitting has benefited my teaching. I don't have a magic wand. I can't make them quit. I help them understand why they smoke and help guide them in the quitting process."

Some of the benefits of smokers can expect when quitting, according to the American Cancer Society, are:

* 20 minutes after quitting -- Your heart rate and blood pressure drop

* 12 hours after quitting -- The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

* 1 to 9 months after quitting -- Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle the mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.

* 1 year after quitting -- The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker's.

* 5 years after quitting -- Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

* 10 years after quitting -- The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.

For more information or to sign up for tobacco cessation classes, call 847-9502.

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