Former Smokers Talk About How They Kicked the Habit

Apr 14, 2017

Sara Duggin is one of four people featured in new Spokane Regional Health District videos encouraging smokers to quit.
Credit Spokane Regional Health District

The Spokane Regional Health District and CHAS, the Community Health Association of Spokane, have combined forces on a new quit smoking campaign.

“I started smoking at 15. All the friends in my neighborhood all smoked. All of the teenagers smoked. And I was also pretty angry with my mother and I thought it would make me look tough, I guess. I don’t know."

Sara Duggin is one of four people featured in the campaign called “Done My Way.” The idea is that smokers looking to quit might best respond to others who have quit. Now, nearing 70, she’s counseling others and sharing her story.

“At 15 I smoked about five years and then stopped because I wanted to set a good example for my little boy. I was a very young mother but I had this responsibility, this sense of responsibility to set a good example for him," she said.

"There was a really effective television campaign right around that time, 1968 or so, where they showed a child following his father around and doing exactly what his father did. The last shot is the father picking up his smokes and lighting one up. He’s all comfortable and the child reaches over and grabs the pack and when I saw that I just kind of had a sharp intake of breath.”

And so that was it, Sara Duggin was a non-smoker.

“So I didn’t smoke for 10 years," Duggin said. "I didn’t smoke, didn’t think about it. It wasn’t part of my culture, wasn’t part of my life at all, until I just had some bad stuff happen and it felt like it would be a good thing to do for just a little while. I didn’t think it would be hard to quit because it was so easy before and it was not only hard to quit, it was impossible.”

Duggin tried to quit.

“Twenty years of quitting and smoking and quitting and smoking," she said. "I would smoke and wish that I wasn’t smoking and then I would quit and wish that I was smoking. So I was in a state of some kind of conflict. “

Duggin knew her habit was bad for her health. She smoked anyway. And then, she quit.

“There was no crisis. There was no single moment. But there was just a realization that I simply couldn’t live anymore with smoking in my life because it so completely conflicted with my personal values," Duggin said. "And the only that I found relief and got success was being part of a support group of people who had the same problem I did, who addressed it the same way I did, that it was an addiction that had to be addressed as an addiction.”

Years later, she’s still involved in support groups. There’s much more of our interview with Sara Duggin that we’ll post soon to the Inland Journal page of the Spokane Public Radio website.

Every story of a smoker who tries to quit is different. Some, like Sara Duggin’s, have good outcomes. Others are still in progress.

And many ended badly. Thousands die every year from the effects of smoking. Sometimes Dr. William Lockwood, the chief clinical officer at CHAS Health, has to reiterate that to his patients.

Dr. Bill Lockwood: “You get more upper respiratory infections. It’s hard on kids. And then there’s second-hand smoke. So 50-thousand people a year die just from being exposed to second-hand smoke. It’s just really atrocious for your health. The best thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking.”

Even before this new video campaign, CHAS has been running its own quit smoking emphasis campaign and it has had a positive effect. Before the campaign started, 60-percent of CHAS patients were smokers. Now he says 51-percent are. Lockwood attributes part of the success to the positive support the clinics provide their patients.

Heather McNamee, the pharmacy director at CHAS, says in focus groups, CHAS heard two main themes from smokers. One, they wanted access to support groups with whom they could talk about smoking and trying to quit. And two, they worried about their ability to get remedies that would replace nicotine.

(excerpt from video) “I’ve smoked from pretty much the time since I was 17 or 18. The reason I started smoking was just to fit in with all my friends. They were all just started smoking and, not to be left out, I thought I’d be cool too and start smoking.”

Jesse is another of the people featured in “Done My Way.” She preferred to give us just her first name.

Jesse  “My younger sister passed away in a car wreck and that kind of escalated the smoking because there was a lot of stress at home and I kind of had to be the strong kid.”

Jesse says she wasn’t a particularly prolific smoker. Sometimes she’d only go through a pack a week.

Jesse: “I actually thought it was disgusting, even when I was smoking. I was like, ‘why am I even doing this?I smell bad. My clothes always smell bad.”

Jesse says she hasn’t smoked in two years. It doesn’t mean she won’t again; she just admitted she still has cravings.

“I actually just have a friend that is two months smoke free," Jesse said. "And she said the first month is always the hardest. And she’s like, ‘I just struggled really bad that first month’ and now she says, ‘I don’t even think about it anymore.’ So just try for one and see if you can do one and then just see how long you can go.”

“You’re going to feel better about yourself. Don’t listen to anyone else. Just do it for you. Done (snap), my way,” Jesse said on her video.

You can see the “Done My Way” videos and get more information about ways you can quit smoking at DoneMyWay.org.