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By Caroline Downs
Tobacco users thinking about ways to break their habit can “kick start” their success with a class in Kenmare.
The two-hour Kick Start Tobacco Cessation class will take place Wednesday, May 9th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the Third Floor Activity Room at Maple View of Kenmare.
The is no cost to attend the class.
“This class is geared toward anybody ready to quit smoking or chewing,” said Bonnie Riely, Tobacco Cessation Coordinator at First District Health Unit in Minot. “Whether you’ve quit before and relapsed, whether it’s your first time quitting, or for anybody who’s even thought about it.”
Bonnie teaches the class on a monthly basis in Minot and recently offered the Kick Start class twice in Garrison. She described the class as educational, and she wants everyone who comes to feel confident about their decision to end tobacco use. “It’s even better if they have a support person they can bring with them,” she said. “That support person is really important when you’re quitting tobacco.”
Bonnie knows what she’s talking about. “I smoked for 32 years,” she said. “My mom died from COPD four years ago, but she and I attended an eight week class in Minot before that. She was tobacco-free for a whole year before she died.”
The two-hour Kick Start class is a great way for smokers or tobacco chewers to begin. “It’s a casual, informal class,” said Bonnie. “I want people to feel comfortable.”
The class features a variety of activities, starting with a check on each class member’s carbon monoxide level. “They can see that number, see some of the toxins in their system,” she said.
During class, Bonnie will review the chemicals used in tobacco products and medications available to help individuals stop using tobacco. “We’ll also go over some medications that are not even in the stores yet,” she said.
Included in the class are displays of the health effects of tobacco use on the body, discussions about the Quitline and QuitNet resources, and advice about using Medicaid or private insurance to cover nicotine replacement and therapy.
“I encourage the participants in the class to call their insurance companies to see how much coverage they provide,” she said. “Most insurance companies are really good about tobacco cessation because they know people using tobacco have so many health issues.”
Bonnie described the Kick Start class as fast-paced. “There are so many things people aren’t even aware of,” she said. “We talk about the depression aspect of it and strategies to deal with that. We talk about the first week of quitting and what that’s like.”
She introduces a variety of medications, gums and lozenges available as aids to help tobacco users quit, with some free samples and coupons available to class participants. “They may have tried something 20 years ago, but things have changed,” she said. “The patch, the gum. Maybe it didn’t work for them back then, but it has changed now, and they need to know about that.”
Teens are welcome to attend the session as well, although Bonnie is prohibited from distributing any nicotine-replacement medications to them by law.
“I’ve had principals bring students they’ve caught smoking, and kids who’ve come on their own,” she said. “Even if somebody is not ready to quit yet, the seeds are planted. It’s about the education.”
And while everything in the Kick Start class takes place in one session, Bonnie noted support groups can form and carry on the work. She facilitates a Tackle Tobacco support group in Minot each week that area residents would be welcome to attend. “And that could happen in Kenmare if the group was willing to set something up,” she said.
As a former smoker, she emphasized she would never tell another person he or she had to quit, and she does not recommend quitting cold turkey.
“But 70 percent of the people who smoke or chew want to quit,” she added. “I would highly recommend anybody to come who is even thinking about quitting, and to bring your support person.”
Persons with further questions about the class should contact Bonnie at 701-837-5171 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If people want to register ahead of time, they can call or email,” she said, “or they can just walk in that night.”
The Kick Start class is sponsored by FDHU and the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition.