Wednesday, May 7, 2008

End of nearly 10 years of resources for smokers who want to quit in Ohio

Yesterday, I ended a smoking cessation class at a local hospital with a group of people who particularly touched my spirit. Many of them were hard-core smokers; many of them had smoking-related health issues. Many had doubts about their ability to succeed in quitting smoking.

Last night was the last class for this group, but also the eve of a turning point in tobacco cessation resources for the state of Ohio, and for me.

The Ohio Senate voted almost unanimously yesterday to clear out the remaining tobacco funds, a proposal that began suddenly two weeks ago by Ohio's governor Strickland. The funds, originally earmarked for tobacco cessation education for smokers who want to quit, were won in 1998's historical tobacco settlement which forced the tobacco company's to fork over $2.3 billion in damages to 14 states for years of lies about the health effects of tobacco use.

What this means now is, many thousands of people who have successfully quit and stayed quit because of this programming and funding will now be without resources, and many people in hospitals and health departments all across the state will be without work.

At the end of the class last night, I informed the group of this passing legislation. They then gave me cards of thanks for the class, looks of gratitude in their eyes.

Last night was particularly sad because I will not see those looks of gratitude and appreciation from the people in my classes any more, and it is likely no one else will have the opportunity to have these free resources and reduced-cost medications for quitting smoking.

After having worked nearly eight years in healthcare and with addictions, tobacco addiction is repeatedly said to be the toughest to kick.

I've seen a baby who weighed 13 ounces because she was born prematurely to a sixteen-year-old mother who smoked.

I've seen people fighting for every breath from COPD and other smoking-related illnesses, still going outside for a smoke -- a testament to this addiction.

I've seen a woman blow herself up because she was drunk, had gasoline on her skin and tried lighting a cigarette over a stove.

It is a sad day for me, and for all smokers who want to quit in Ohio. It's a sad day for lots of health educators in the state who will now be without jobs. Last night as I left my group at the local hospital, I wept on the drive home.

Saying goodbye of your own accord is hard enough. But saying goodbye because of a greedy government who can't balance its books and continually raids funds set aside specifically for helping people quit tobacco leaves me feeling helpless and with little faith in a government that's supposed to be run "by the people, for the people."


  1. Hello playfullness-this is Kim and Mark's friend here. I have a quitting-smoking story for ya, if it will help.
    When I saw that I was spending too much of my resources on tobacco, rather than on the house, and it really came down to Marlboro or my house, I chose. The way that I broke my addiction is by getting those cheap bags of cough drops. When I wanted to smoke, *cough cough* I had a cough drop instead. Or two....
    After what seemed like seven years but what was actually a month, I had very little desire for tobacco, or cough drops. Also, I still own my house.
    That said, I might add that I admire your effort to assist these folks in this area. I suppose my story could be analagous to yours, in that my resources were being wasted on the smoke, while the resources for your program are being reduced by the smoke of battle. Let us hope that the foresight of the elite will return to domestic issues, rather than continue to hover over international tensions that seem to be breaking the country economically.

  2. Dearest Shannon:
    I saw this originally when you emailed it out last week, but I was unable to comment at that time for reasons which should be obvious to many (or at least to you). Today I saw the Letter To The Editor in the ABJ and cried again. Frankly, there is absolutely no way to appropriately thank you. And to have you leave an area of wisdom and education for these reasons, is like a double slap in the face for those of us who have been there and done that. I have a very heavy heart over this. I don't imagine there are too many people who can successfully do what you have been doing or have as high a success rate. What a God-awful shame to lose you! I have often thought to myself that to smoke now after 2+ weeks would be giving very little regard to you. That actually helps me. The small token of our appreciation that John and I picked up for you, but which others joined in, says very little when it comes to saying what you have done for us. We are sooo very forever grateful! PLEASE stay in touch with us!!! We wanna know about you, the husband, the kids, the jogging, the NOT smoking, the new job, your life. In five short weeks, you have become so much more than a 'friend'. Now it's not 'how will we live without you', it's 'how did we ever manage without you?' We MUST keep in touch!! To lose what we have gained with you would be the second grievious error to come out of this last class - the first, of course, being the governor's decision. You simply MUST FIND THE TIME!
    Love and Thanks,
    Randy and John May

  3. Dearest Shannon:
    We originally read this last week when you sent it out to 'your last class'. I was unable to comment at that time for reasons which should be obvious to many people (most likely YOU). Then today I saw your Letter To The Editor in the ABJ and cried all over again. What a damn shame!! To lose someone with your wisdom and education in a field like this for the reason Ohio has lost you, should be criminal. I cannot believe that there are many who can successfully do what you do/did, and do it as well. Or with your success rate. The small token of appreciation picked up last week by John and myself (and later added to by others) says so little compared to what you have said and done to us!!! To smoke now would almost be like a double-slap to your face!! Please know that we appreciate all you've done, that we thank and honor you, that you've earned our respect, and that we shall NOT soon forget you, if ever. We simply MUST stay in touch. We want to know about you, the husband, the kids, the lack of organization :o), the new job, the jogging, the dogs, YOUR LIFE!!! Don't leave us in the dust - answer e-mails and stay in touch. YOU SIMPLY MUST FIND THE TIME AS MUST WE. Thank you Shannon! For all that you are, for all that you've done, for all that you will become. We THANK YOU!

    Love and Honor,
    Randy & John May


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