Locals offer programs to help people quit smoking

WARREN — In addition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Every Try Counts initiative coming online this month in Trumbull County, there are already several programs available to help smokers kick the habit.

Mercy Health has two regional tobacco treatment centers locally — one at the New Start Treatment Center on Tod Avenue NW in Warren and another on Belmont Avenue in Youngstown.

The centers offer a five-week treatment program with certified tobacco treatment specialists that focuses on behavioral counseling to form habits around overcoming the addiction and medication that helps people quit smoking.

Treatment specialists discuss with each patient the individual circumstances of their habits utilizing a counseling technique known as motivational interviewing.

“Rather than us dictating and telling the client what to do, with motivational interviewing we are getting the client to admit to themselves what is so wrong and what is so good about smoking and what they want to see in their future,” said Terri Grimmett, center manager. “We help them through those stages of change so it is their ideas, not ours … It works very well.”

Nicotine replacement products like patches and prescription medications such as Chantix are also utilized.

“Chantix attaches to the nicotine receptors in the brain, and it helps prevent cravings and it doesn’t make smoking enjoyable,” Grimmett said. “In the 12 years we’ve been doing this, Chantix either works like a miracle or it doesn’t work at all; there doesn’t seem to be a middle of the road.”

The program is offered free and all medications or nicotine replacement products are provided at no cost for six weeks.

The only requirement is participants must be 18 years old and residents of “nearby counties.” People are able to enter the program once every 12 months, but Grimmett said the program requires abstinence.

“We do an initial evaluation and we are determining what stage they are,” she said. “If they are not ready to (be fully abstinent) we let them know that this is not their time perhaps. If you’re not ready, we don’t want to burn your opportunity.”

There are also weekly education sessions for those who want to learn more about tobacco use but are not yet ready to quit.

According to the center’s follow-up studies, if a person follows the entire program and actively participates, there is a 95 to 98 percent success rate in the first three months. After six months, there is a 60 percent success rate, and at one year, there is about a 40 percent success rate.

Group therapy and individual counseling sessions are held three to four days a week at different times. Those interested can make an appointment or talk to a specialist by calling 330-306-5010, Ext. 101.

Another program focuses on expecting mothers. In 2014, about 1 in 12 pregnant women smoked during their pregnancy, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for serious health problems, including birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Baby and Me — Tobacco Free, a national program, formed to confront the issue. The group’s agencies around the country offer four free sessions to pregnant women who smoke.

In the last two sessions, the mother’s breath is tested for carbon monoxide. If she has remained tobacco free, she receives vouchers for a month of diapers. If she stays tobacco free after the program, she can can receive a monthly voucher for 12 months after the last voucher.

A smoker who lives with a pregnant woman can also enroll in the program and receive the vouchers.

The program is run by Trumbull County Combined Health District and is housed at its offices on Chestnut Avenue NE in Warren.

Mercy Health’s tobacco treatment center also provides specialized services that directly work with pregnant moms. Also, Grimmett said, she works with Akron Children’s Hospital to train pediatricians in assessing pregnant women and mothers’ smoking habits and referring them for further treatment.

Robert Pinti, deputy health commissioner for the Warren City Health District, said the county has ongoing programs to monitor and curtail smoking, including sending employees out to monitor if stores are selling cigarettes to minors.

“The message of the risks of smoking are out there constantly,” he said.