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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital


An Intimate Look at Smoking: Veterans who kicked the Habit

Vietnam Veteran David Wayne Mathis, with his wife Linda, successfully completed Truman VA's Tobacco Cessation Program.

Vietnam Veteran David Wayne Mathis, with his wife Linda, successfully completed Truman VA's Tobacco Cessation Program. Mathis says he can now "live again." After 40 years of smoking, he credits his family and Truman VA with kicking the habit.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Army Veteran David Wayne Mathis arrived at Truman VA with cigarettes on his mind.  It was a frigid morning, and the parking lot was full.  There he was, with his wife Linda, for one of the biggest challenges of his life. 

If he succeeded, he would be eligible to receive the liver transplant he so desperately needed. 

But if he failed…

He couldn’t think about that.  And so, as he would tell the story "I had to control my mind…kept thinking about positive things…my kids, my wife."

After 40 years of smoking two packs of cigarettes daily, Mathis, 63, was in bad shape.  But Truman VA, according to Mathis, "gave me the tools to break the habit."

Mathis successfully completed the 7-week Tobacco Cessation Program last April.  The program is based on research about ‘what works’, according to Autumn Keefer, PhD, Psychologist and Health Behavior Coordinator at Truman VA. Keefer says the program is designed with the needs of the smoker, and provides several options for quitting.

Under the program, Veterans are provided education as they contemplate quitting smoking; a 7-week quit class; telephone quit counseling; pharmacist consultation; and follow-up, which provides support to Veterans who have quit assuring they remain tobacco-free.

Like Mathis, Air Force Veteran Carl Edward Powell said "enough is enough." For the majority of his life, 53-year-old Powell smoked cigarettes religiously, unfiltered Camels to be exact. His addiction began shortly after he enlisted.

"While in the military, the saying was if you got ‘em smoke’em," says Powell.

Research shows that smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death and a leading cause of illness and mortality. The rate of smoking among Veterans in the VA health care system is higher than the national average. 

Today, Powell has been tobacco-free for almost a year.  He says the process was hard, but the benefits are so worth it.  

"My lungs are stronger, my sense of smell and taste are better…I forgot how good a hamburger could be."

Powell says the benefits of the Tobacco Cessation Program are its structure and the willingness of Truman VA to assist.  "They give you a quit smoking date, and they are there to assist every step of the way."

For more information about how to quit smoking, contact Melissa Mertensmeyer, Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program Manager at Truman VA at (573) 814-6472.


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