Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, May 2, 2011

Staff member quits smoking with help from U-M program

First came the cardiac event that sent Jackie Hunt to the hospital in January 2010.

"My cardiologist told me that if I did nothing else for myself I should stop smoking," says Hunt, a medical technologist II in the hematopathology laboratory at University Hospital.


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MHealthy Tobacco Independence Program
Smoke-Free University Initiative
University Health Service

Next, her daughter revealed she was expecting Hunt's first grandchild. "I thought, 'Do I want to be around my grandchild smoking? No,'" she says.

Finally, one more incentive to quit came when the university announced that the U-M Smoke-Free University initiative was set to begin. Starting July 1 it prohibits smoking at all U-M facilities, buildings and grounds, including athletic properties.

A no-smoking policy has been in effect in nonresidential buildings since 1987, the U-M Health System since 1998, and in residence halls since 2003. The initiative extends that ban to grounds on all three campuses.

The only exceptions are that smoking will not be prohibited in privately owned vehicles or on sidewalks adjacent to public thoroughfares on the Ann Arbor campuses. It will be prohibited on sidewalks leading to buildings or pedestrian malls such as the Diag. Hunt imagined she'd be heading to her car to smoke on breaks. She decided it was time for a change.

That's when she called the MHealthy Tobacco Independence Program (MTIP). Part of the smoke-free initiative, it provides support for U-M faculty, staff, and spouses or Other Qualified Adults who want to quit tobacco. The program offers free counseling focused on the most successful methods to end tobacco addiction. Online, telephonic and in-person programs are available.

"We have seen an increase in the use of our service by the staff especially," says Linda A. Thomas, manager of the MHealthy Tobacco Consultation Service, as the smoke-free initiative approaches implementation.

"When we look at our evaluations, we hear that there are expectations that we will show scary pictures and focus on negative aspects of smoking. Actually, we focus on the benefits of quitting — feeling better, having more energy, saving a lot of money and feeling less conscious about smelling like cigarettes," Thomas says.

Hunt began attending sessions in February 2010. While she had tried and failed with other attempts to quit smoking, she said the U-M program worked. "I think the most effective thing is it didn't preach at me," she says.

Hunt said the program identified certain lifestyle changes one can make, like getting enough sleep and reducing other stresses to head off cravings. "They looked at if I drank enough water. Being properly hydrated helps that process, so does eating the right kinds of food," she says.

Since quitting March 23, 2010, Hunt says her cravings are few and far between. On rare occasions she uses a nicotine inhaler, such as in social situations when she can't avoid people who are smoking.

With the July 1 deadline approaching, a growing number of students also are taking advantage of a similar counseling program offered at the University Health Service, Thomas says. "We're actually at a point where we're considering raising time at UHS from two to four hours a week because of demand," Thomas says.

For faculty and staff in a U-M health insurance plan, MTIP includes coverage for generic over-the-counter tobacco treatment products with a $5 co-pay per one-month supply.

The program also addresses the guilt some smokers may feel over failing to quit, even though their families urge them to.

"We help them make the quit process tolerable so they have a greater chance of success," Thomas says.