Be a quitter and be proud


POSTED: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For Bryan Talisayan, a 19-year, pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, it wasn't his own health concerns that motivated him to quit the habit; it was the realization that secondhand smoke affected the health of his Labrador retriever, Rela.

“;You always hear about secondhand smoke,”; said Talisayan, 36. “;I never thought of it as being a problem for my pet.”;

Talisayan's father smoked, so he took up the habit when he was a freshman in high school.

Even seeing images of black lungs couldn't scare him enough to quit, but learning that Rela's lungs were being affected made him think twice about his choice.

“;For a long time I never really wanted to quit smoking,”; he said. “;I just knew it was the right thing to do.”;

So he sought counseling from the Waikiki Health Center and got help from nicotine lozenges and a quit coach, who helped him draw up a strategy.

“;The counseling was definitely key,”; Talisayan, who preferred one-on-one rather than group sessions.

It's been three years since he quit, and although he had one relapse, he hasn't gone back to smoking.

“;It took me a good few months to identify it as being part of my past,”; he said. “;That was the steppingstone for me. It's definitely made a difference in my life. I don't have to huff and puff as I walk up the stairs, and it's definitely improved the quality of my life, as well as for my pet.”;






        1. Set a goal. Decide that you're going to cut down by 10 cigarettes a month, and also set a quit date, whether it's two weeks or two months away (and the reasons why). That's the date you will toss your cigarettes away and tobacco-proof your environment. Mark it on a calendar.


2. Gather support. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to stay off cigarettes.


3. Know your triggers. This can be coffee, a certain area at work where others smoke, alcohol or a stressful day at work. Find alternative ways to relieve stress, which could include going for a walk or listening to music.


4. Take care of yourself. The period after you quit will be challenging. Reward yourself for small victories, such as being off cigarettes for just one or two weeks. Money you save from not buying cigarettes can be saved up for something special.


5. Don't give up. Stay positive and don't be too hard on yourself if you relapse. It's a process. Keep trying.


Source: Jennifer Duarte, lead quit coach, Hawaii Tobacco Quitline


Coming up with a quit plan is one of the first steps to take toward quitting, according to Jennifer Duarte, lead quit coach of the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline.

The individual sets a goal, for example, of how many cigarettes they'll cut by a certain date, and a target date for success. That's the day when the smoker will commit to throwing out cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters, and tobacco-proofing his or her environment.

Those who smoke in the car, for instance, will place photos of their kids there as a way to stay motivated, said Duarte.

Social settings, such as alcohol-fueled parties, are also a major trigger, and in these cases, smokers need to stay away from settings where smoking is accepted as part of the scene.

Stress is another trigger, and Duarte encourages smokers to think of alternative ways to deal with stress, such as deep breathing, going for a jog, writing in a journal or listening to music.

Quit coaches can also refer smokers to suitable programs, from individual coaching to group therapy.

In addition to employing nicotine patches and gum toward their goal, many smokers are also opting for prescription medications like Chantix, which helps eliminate cravings.

Referrals may also be made for alternative treatments such as hypnotherapy or acupuncture.

MANY SMOKERS also need to be aware of the triggers, which for many begin with that routine first cup of coffee in the morning, enjoyed with the day's first cigarette. Duarte suggests changing that routine by going for a walk after breakfast, switching to tea or taking the coffee to go, en route to work, leaving no room for temptation.

To replace the hand-to-mouth habit cigarettes provide, try substituting carrot sticks, pieces of fruit, nuts or sugarless hard candy.

Because the replacement for cigarettes is usually food, weight gain is a concern, but counselors advocate a lifestyle change that also includes a better diet and more exercise.

Approximately 15.4 percent of adults, or 154,000 individuals, use tobacco in Hawaii, according to a 2008 survey by the state Health Department. The greatest percentage of smokers are ages 25 to 34, according to the survey, with the 18-to-24 group not far behind. Of the adults who smoke, more than half tried to quit in the past year.

Most do want to quit but are easily discouraged, according to Beth Davidann, director of the Wellness & Lifestyle Medicine Center at Castle Medical Center, which offers individual counseling, treatment and group classes.

The Wellness Center takes a holistic approach to nicotine dependency, which has physical, psychological and social components. While every quit attempt is different, the center offers a number of tools, and its goal is to empower individuals to free themselves from the habit.

The withdrawal period, and side effects ranging from insomnia to dry mouth and increased coughing, are tough to deal with, she said.

One tool the center offers is a carbon monoxide tester, which shows a decrease in the contaminant levels in an individuals' breath within two to three days after quitting. Seeing the difference is encouraging.

Participants in the tobacco cessation program are encouraged to share their experiences as inspiration to others. While many people cite children or other family members as their motivation, Davidann said smokers have to make the decision to quit for themselves.

“;We don't spend time harping on the dangers of smoking,”; said Davidann, “;but we also don't sugar-coat the harm you may have done to your body.”;

The main message: “;There's lots of help available and there's no shame in asking.”;

Darius Lewis, a saxophone player from Kapolei, quit smoking after 37 years, primarily for health reasons.

“;I'm getting older,”; said Lewis, 54, “;and I'm thinking, I've got to quit smoking. I had more wind playing when I was young, and as I was getting older, the wind's been disappearing. You don't have as much energy. Since I quit smoking, I got it all back.”;

Lewis, who started smoking in high school, received counseling from the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center's tobacco cessation program.

With the help of patches and counseling, Lewis quit within a month, which is rare. Typically, quitting takes an average of seven to eight attempts, according to Duarte, though it depends on the individual.

If smokers can make it to six months without a cigarette, chances of relapsing decrease, according to Davidann. Even so, some people can relapse even after being smoke-free for several years.

“;I think a lot of people get discouraged by trying and not succeeding,”; said Talisayan. “;Studies have shown the more you try quitting, the more successful you'll be. So it's important to not give up and keep trying.”;

Lewis has been smoke-free for three years and says his sense of taste and smell have returned.

“;When you feel better, you play better and live better,”; said Lewis. “;My life is so much better without those cigarettes.”;






        » Hawaii Tobacco Quitline: Available 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 800-QUIT-NOW or visit Free. Open to ages 18 and older. Those who register will be transferred to a quit coach. The uninsured can get a free quit kit, which includes an eight-week supply of nicotine patches or gum. Quit-line coaches also help direct those who are not insured toward other programs. Programs are widely available at Straub, Castle, Kaiser, Queen's Medical Center, military hospitals and health centers. Visit


» HMSA “;Ready, Set, Quit!”;: Members' program. Call 952-4400 on Oahu or 888-225-4122 on neighbor islands.


» Castle Smoking Cessation: 263-5050 or visit


» Kaiser Free and Clear Phone Counseling Program: 866-784-8454


» Hawaii Teen Line: 521-TEEN (Oahu) or toll-free 877-521-TEEN (statewide), 2 to 5 p.m. Visit