As a teenager, Adam Fargher ignored peer pressure to smoke, but in college, the social appeal of cigarettes and conversation won him over. Now a junior in electrical engineering, he started smoking pipes, eventually moving onto cigarettes.
Meanwhile his wife, who had given up years of cigarette smoking before she met him, quickly fell back into her old habits.
“She had a rough time quitting, and I brought that back into our home,” Fargher said. Although he didn’t consider himself a chain smoker, Fargher felt bad that what he considered his casual habit was negatively impacting his wife.
“I felt responsible for her starting again, so I decided to stop,” he said.
But even though Fargher’s smoking habit was what he considered ‘casual,’ quitting was not as simple as he expected.
“I tried to quit on my own, cold turkey,” he said. “But after three or four weeks, the cravings were killing me.”
After his first attempt at quitting failed, Fargher was frustrated.
“You have to admit you’re addicted, and that’s hard, because we want to be in control,” he said. “I came to a point where I just couldn’t do it on my own.”
So when Fargher saw a poster for a free tobacco cessation program through Student Health Services at OSU, he decided to reach out, even though it hurt his pride.
“My heart was beating hard when I picked up that phone,” he said. “You’ve got to humble yourself. You’re kind of turning yourself in.”
But Fargher quickly found that the smoking cessation sessions he had with Stacey Edwards really helped him focus on very tangible objectives. The free nicotine gum he received through the program also gave him a chance to tackle his cravings, and keep him on track. He soon found he had to use the gum a lot less often than he’d expected, and four weeks into the program, was only chewing one piece a week.
Student Health Services is now able to offer free nicotine gum and patches to students thanks to a gift from PacificSource. Edwards, Peer Health Advocate coordinator and Smoke-free OSU project director chair, is one of the Student Health Services employees who provides cessation support to students. She said being able to offer patches and gum for free is a big boon to getting students on the path to quitting.
“Many have tried quitting ‘cold turkey’ without using nicotine patches or gum because of their perceived high cost,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, a very small percentage of people who use this method are successful in quitting. With the offer of free tobacco cessation counseling and nicotine patches or gum, it reduces that financial barrier for OSU students and makes the program more accessible for them.”
Word is getting out about the program. At this time last year, only 12 students had participated in tobacco cessation sessions. This year, Student Health Services has seen 44 visits so far.
This time, Fargher said he feels like he’ll really be able to walk away from smoking, and said part of his determination is to be a smoke free family before he and his wife have children.
The fact that OSU will become a smoke-free campus on Sept. 1, 2012, has also influenced his decision. He thinks the move to a smoke free environment will help support the choices he’s making, and will help others quit.
“Even seeing cigarette butts on the ground is a trigger,” he said. “And seeing people socially smoking is hard.”
By reducing the visual signs of smoking around campus, those who have chosen to quit will have their behavior reinforced, and won’t have to face triggers that make giving up smoking so difficult.
“Already, I have worked with students who decided to quit because of the upcoming smoke-free campus policy,” Edwards said. “They don’t want the inconvenience of walking off campus to smoke and/or they have wanted to quit and having a smoke-free campus gives them the supportive environment in which to do so. It’s amazing how seeing people smoking outside of campus buildings has caused many to relapse”
Whatever the reason, quitting can provide unexpected benefits beyond cost and health.
“I have a lot more self respect,” Fargher said, after quitting. “And my wife respects me more too.”
For more information on the Student Health Services Tobacco Cessation program, go to http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/tobacco-cessation. The program is free for OSU students. Faculty and staff services are $20 for initial visit, $10 for additional visits, or they can obtain free smoking cessation assistance through PEBB at http://oregon.gov/DAS/PEBB/FreeClear.shtml.
~ Theresa Hogue