Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Veteran Spotlight on Tobacco Cessation
Army Veteran Tom Pierce smoked his first cigarette at six years old. By age 12, he had a daily cigarette habit. When he reached three packs per day, he began to doubt he could ever quit. He made some attempts to quit, but would always go back to cigarettes when life became stressful. Not even the nicotine patch kept him from going back to tobacco.
In February, Tom had severe chest pain. He was having a heart attack and needed emergency surgery. Even though he was a heavy smoker, Tom was shocked, because “I just figured I was invincible.” After by-pass surgery, he knew he had to quit. He asked his doctors for help and was sent to Truman VA’s “Thinking about Quitting” class to learn how to successfully quit and stay quit.
Tom enrolled in the Truman VA quit program. He learned a lot about his addiction and made a personal quit plan to handle all three parts of nicotine addiction. He learned why the patch did not “make me stop smoking” before. He had to learn healthy ways to handle the habit and emotional parts of the smoking addiction.
Tom’s last cigarette was on June 3. He found healthier ways to manage stress without cigarettes. He learned the urge to smoke would pass whether he smoked or not. He got better at saying “no” to the urges, and used walking and other activities to get through the urges. Eventually, the urges were fewer and less strong. Since he lives with a smoker, Tom learned how to handle triggers to smoke without giving in.
It is now five months since Tom quit. When asked what benefits he has noticed since quitting, he laughs and says, “I have more money!” He no longer smells like smoke, has more energy and is able to breathe easier. Food tastes better. Best of all, Tom is back in control again. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it. I’m very proud of myself.”
Tom’s advice to Veterans with doubts about quitting is to believe that they can be successful. “I would tell them to keep trying. If it doesn’t work right away, don’t get upset and give up. Try again. You will be successful.” Tom recommends the Truman VA Tobacco Cessation program. He says it made the difference for him and believes it will help other Veterans who are ready to get back their health and freedom from smoking.
To learn more about quitting options, ask your VA primary care team for a referral to the Truman VA “Thinking about Quitting” class. Veterans may also call Dr. Joe Hinkebein, Lead Tobacco Cessation Clinician, at 573-814-6216.
For more information about quitting tobacco, go to: