Health Matters: Start the New Year right and stop smoking

By Mary Kay VanDriel, R. N.

With the season of New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, what better time than now to kick a nicotine habit for good? Studies show that smoking can lead to all sorts of health complications including cancer, emphysema and pneumonia.

At Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals, we are fortunate to have Laura Rush, RN, as a trained smoking cessation specialist, to help people like you or your loved ones stop smoking. I asked Laura to offer some tips to help those thinking about quitting smoking for good. If you like these tips and think you would benefit from a one-on-one consultation session with Laura, she offers free smoking cessation coaching as well.

Here are some tips from Laura:

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U. S. Cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. While more than 55 percent of adult smokers in this country made a quit attempt in 2015, only about 7 percent were successful."

For those who have smoked for many years, it can be difficult to quit smoking. But with these tips, you can be well on your way to being nicotine free in 2018.

1. Set a quit date: Chose a date within two weeks of your decision to quit and decide to stick to it.

2. Stock up on oral substitutes such as sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and toothpicks. These can help when you have the urge to smoke.

3. Write down on index cards the reasons you have decided to quit smoking. Post these cards everywhere you are likely to smoke- in your car, desk where you study, in the kitchen, next to the chair you sit and watch tv, etc.

4. Identify your social support. Reach out and find a “quit buddy” or someone who will support you along the way. Also look for a support group or cessation class to join.

5. Make it less convenient to get to your pack of cigarettes. Try leaving them in the car if you are home, or leave them at home if you are out somewhere.

6. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, listening to music, and muscle relaxation exercises.

7. Take advantage of resources to improve your chances of success. There are many local organizations who want to see you succeed. If you want one-on-one coaching, you can contact District Health Department #10 at 231.689.7300, or you can call Laura Rush, RN BSN TTS, at 231.832.6636. You can also call the Michigan Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW (800.784.8669) or Spectrum Health Smoking Cessation Information Hotline at 616.486.6503.”

I know quitting smoking may be difficult, but it’s a decision that will greatly benefit your health, and will improve your chances of living a happy, healthy life for years to come.

Mary Kay VanDriel is a Registered Nurse who serves as the president of Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. If you have suggestions for column topics, email