Group snuffs out habit

Published 10:56 pm Thursday, April 3, 2014

Graduates of the American Lung Association Freedom From Smoking program sponsored by the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community celebrate their achievement. Pictured from left are Pierrette Brusseau, Franklin Powell Jr., Shelia Ward, instructor Sandra Sullivan, John Stephenson and Lisa Barnes.

Graduates of the American Lung Association Freedom From Smoking program sponsored by the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community celebrate their achievement. Pictured from left are Pierrette Brusseau, Franklin Powell Jr., Shelia Ward, instructor Sandra Sullivan, John Stephenson and Lisa Barnes.

Shelia Ward approached the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program with a healthy dose of skepticism.

“I have tried everything in the book,” said Ward, who has been smoking for 46 years. “I’ve tried hypnosis, I’ve tried the patch, and Chantix. I guess I just wasn’t ready before.”

Unsure if the program, which was sponsored locally by the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, would help her, she signed up anyway.

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Her success in quitting by the end of the eight-week program was a pleasant surprise, she said.

“I kind of went in there with the ‘not-sure-this-is-going-to-work’ attitude,” she said. “I thought, ‘Is this going to be another dead-end road?’”

But the program did work, not only for Ward but also for six others in the program. Ten people started the class, but some were not able to complete it because of different reasons, Partnership Executive Director Robbie Laughton said.

Ward said the primary thing that made a difference was the support system offered by the weekly meetings.

“I think it was just being around other people that have the same frame of mind,” she said. “Sandra (Sullivan, the instructor) was there every step of the way.”

John Stephenson also was successful in quitting by the end of the program after cutting down during the first several weeks.

“The best thing about it was that I met a lot of new friends,” he said. “The whole group worked together and helped each other.”

Sandra Sullivan, herself a former smoker, said the graduates’ achievements went beyond her expectations.

“I was very pleased,” she said, adding that she tried not to dominate the conversation, allowing the participants to discuss among themselves.

“They gave good information to help the other people,” she said. “It was wonderful. It just makes you feel good.”

Laughton said the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community was excited about the program, which normally costs participants for materials but was sponsored by the partnership so it would be free.

“We’re real excited to be able to offer that,” he said. “It does mean an awful lot in changing a person’s health behavior.”

The program will be offered again beginning April 22. For more information on the program, or to reserve a spot, email info@suffolkpartnership.org or call 539-1525.