Pointing to a set of pigs’ lungs, which are similar in size and structure to humans’, Ann Dzwonchyk, wellness educator with Evangelical Community Health and Wellness, explained that our lungs are made of tissue that expands and contracts with our every breath.
“The lung is a muscle, which is not designed for smoke (cigarettes, etc.) or oils (vaping),” she said.
She uses the set of lungs to show the effects of smoking and vaping.
One lung remained pink and healthy, while the other had smoke pumped into it to simulate 15 to 20 years of pack-a-day smoking.
Its blackened tissue hung on it like a charred, flaking wasp nest.
“There’s nothing healthy. There’s not one thing good with this. Nothing,” Dzwonchyk said about smoking and vaping.
She offers practical hope to smokers through a Freedom From Smoking program at Evangelical Community Hospital, in Lewisburg. She praised people who seek help.
“I think that’s what the hardest thing is, making that first phone call,” she said, adding that she gives people information and leaves it up to them if they want to schedule a visit or not.
“I don’t put them on the spot. I tell them I’m giving them the toolbox. It is all their choice.”
The Freedom From Smoking program covers eight sessions in seven weeks. The first three focus on identifying what makes a person want to smoke and want to quit. The fourth and fifth sessions, when smokers actually begin the quitting process, are both in the fourth week. The following three weeks strengthen the quitting decision and work with coping skills.
Smoking and vaping are habits that were learned and can be unlearned. It’s all about routine, Dzwonchyk said.
“Most people don’t like change. It doesn’t feel right, whatsoever,” she said. “So let’s change the routine a little bit.”
In the beginning, it’s not a question of taking away the habit but delaying it and avoiding triggers. So if a person is accustomed to smoking in their car, they might consider putting the cigarettes in the trunk. If stress causes smoking, what else can the person do when stressed? If a person’s friends gather and smoke in a certain location — a bar, maybe, or even the lunchroom at work — the person might have to avoid that location for a few weeks.
“You don’t have to stop going forever,” Dzwonchyk said. “Just until this becomes your new normal.”
Having a strong support system at home is also crucial.
“It’s extremely hard to quit if you have someone at home who is smoking,” she said.
Stickers for success
In the Freedom From Smoking program, clients track their smoking habits before quitting then track their days after quitting. On the first day they give themselves a sticker every two hours with no smoking. After that they get a sticker every day. It sounds childish, but Dzwonchyk has seen its effect.
“It works,” she said.
She explained that nicotine is a drug, whether delivered through cigarettes, cigars, vaping, or chewing. People recovering from it might have headaches and feel drowsy and grouchy. They’ll have cravings, but cravings pass in three to five minutes.
“In those three to five minutes, what can you do?” she asks clients, and they list the possibilities. Walk the dog, watch a movie, clean a drawer, take deep breaths, work on a hobby, etc.
Dzwonchyk talks to people about any slip-ups they’ve had and how they can avoid them in the future.
“I’m very non-threatening,” she said. “I’m not going to be in your face. I’ll hold you accountable, but this is your mission.”
Small goals, big results
The Freedom From Smoking program has been proven to help people stop smoking, vaping and chewing, Dzwonchyk said, but other programs exist, including online plans where a person can monitor himself or herself.
Susan O’Connell, of Selinsgrove, quit by setting small goals for herself.
“I set out to make five days without smoking,” she said. “I ate lots of celery sticks, carrot sticks and hard boiled eggs and water. I avoided the usual ‘spots’ of having one as much as possible, and I slept to my heart’s content.”
After five days she aimed for two weeks and, feeling better, started exercising too.
“After two weeks, the craving was much less and I challenged myself to a month,” she said. “I had a weak moment or two but called someone or got busy, and at a month I said, ‘If I make it two months I’m never turning back,’ and sure enough, 60 days of some coughing and urges, and it was behind me. I will/can never touch a cigarette ever again.”
“It’s up to you,” Dzwonchyk said. “It just depends on your preference.”
She has seen tobacco’s effects on people’s lungs, mouths and lifestyles, and she applauds them when they decide to give quitting a try.
“If you’re ready to make some changes and have a healthy lifestyle,” she said, “I will help you all I can.”
Anyone interested in the Freedom From Smoking program can call Evangelical Community Health and Wellness at 570-768-3200 or email Dzwonchyk at firstname.lastname@example.org.