Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Veteran Finds Freedom from Tobacco
Mcneal Phauls started smoking cigarettes at the age of 13 in an attempt to fit in with his peers while living in New York. It was not until years later he realized that smoking was not the “in” thing to do.
Mcneal entered the U.S. Army in 1974. By the time he was discharged in 1988, he had increased his cigarette use from 1 pack-a-day to 2-3 packs. He attempted to quit tobacco while in the service on three separate occasions using various cessation aids with no success.
About two and a half years ago, Mcneal decided it was time to quit. He was done trying to fill a void inside of him with cigarettes. Mcneal’s dentist at the time would not complete dental work because he was smoking, another factor motivating him to quit. He was offered the Truman VA Tobacco Quit Program. He attended the orientation class and was so impressed with Dr. Joe Hinkebein, Health Behavior Coordinator/Lead Tobacco Clinician, and the tools offered in the class that he signed up for the 7-week quit program.
Mcneal attributes his success with quitting to what he learned in the quit program. For health reasons, he could not use cessation aids like the gum or patches. Therefore, he often relied on the class workbook, especially the first few days without tobacco, which he believes were the hardest. He took other measures at home and work to abstain from tobacco. He also knew he had support from Dr. Hinkebein and his tobacco cessation classmates. Every day he went without smoking, he put a stamp in his workbook to show himself what he accomplished and to feel proud.
Mcneal has been tobacco free for two and a half years now. He can breathe better, has fewer colds and his personal belongings do not smell like smoke. He was also able to get his teeth fixed. It was not until he quit that he realized his clothes and house smelled like cigarette smoke. As a reward for quitting, he took his clothes to the cleaners and used the money he saved from not purchasing tobacco to take a trip to Jamaica. This year he and his wife have another trip planned to visit their son in San Antonio. He is able to enjoy himself more on vacation, because he has to take fewer smoking stops on the way and can focus on time with his family.
When asked what advice he would give to others who might be considering quitting, Mcneal warns that it will not be easy at first. But, it will get easier. He offers encouragement to those out there struggling to quit. He believes if you can light up a cigarette, you can say “no” to a cigarette. He urges others to try the Truman VA Tobacco Quit Program, “I think the VA has the right materials. It’s not so much about having the willpower as it is about having the right tools.” He guarantees success when you follow the program.