The Great American SmokeOut is Thursday, November 15. Recently, Ms. Tina Long, a former smoker, stopped by the Health Department to talk with Ed Jones, Health Department Health Promotion Coordinator. The article below shares part of her story. A full transcript of the conversation with Ms. Long can be found on the Health Department’s website at www.gnrhealth.com/smokeout.htm.
Tina Long started smoking when she was 16, because she and a friend thought that smoking would help them lose weight. “It didn’t work,” she recalled. “I smoked after each snack and meal, but I did not lose weight.” She did, however, become addicted to cigarettes and continued to smoke for 28 years. It would take a laryngectomy (removal of her vocal chords) 14 years ago to convince her to quit.
When asked what she thought influenced her decision to smoke Ms. Long replied that she “saw and heard advertising for cigarettes on television, radio, newspapers and magazines saying why people should smoke.” But the greatest influences came from seeing other people smoke, such as her dad and one of her friends. Ms. Long says, “Today, actors are seen smoking in movies and on television. To me, this is more enticing than any advertising.”
Asked when and why she did finally quit, Ms. Long recounted that she did not stop smoking until she was driving to the hospital for her surgery. She remembered what it was like for her children to see her in the hospital following her surgery. She saw the fear in their eyes and in her husband’s eyes that they may lose a mother and wife to cancer.
It has been 14 years since Ms. Long underwent her surgery, and she lives daily with changes that resulted from her decision to smoke. She now has no vocal chords and uses an artificial way of speaking. Her voice is raspy and difficult for some people to understand. Automated phone systems do not recognize her voice, so if she cannot connect to a real person, she needs someone to help her with the call by speaking for her. “When I am with a group of people in public places, I often times feel isolated, because it is hard for my voice to be heard and easy for others to talk over me,” Ms. Long says.
When asked if she had any advice for teens, she emphatically said, “Don’t start smoking! Smoking is very addictive and an extremely difficult habit to break. Smoking is not sexy or cool. Smoking will not help you lose weight, become more popular, or relax you.”
To read more of Ms. Long’s conversation with Mr. Jones, visit the Health Department’s website at www.gnrhealth.com/smokeout.htm. Here you will also find links to help smokers of all ages quit smoking. If you are a current smoker, consider calling the Georgia Tobacco Use Prevention Program’s Free Quit Line at 1.877.270.7867 (English); 1.877.266.3863 (Spanish); or 1.877.777.6534 (Hearing Impaired) where you can talk with a professionally trained cessation counselor at no cost.