Contact: Thomas Hottman
During a Freedom from Smoking class in Klamath Falls, participants got out their calculators to find out how many times they repeat the pattern of putting a cigarette to their lips and inhaling.
By multiplying 20 puffs per cigarettes and one pack a day for over 10 years equals 1.5 million times of taking a puff of a cigarette.
"Even though nicotine is addictive, it's the pattern. How do you undo 1.5 million times you've smoked?" Valerie Franklin, Sky Lakes Medical Center Outpatient Care Management program coordinator, said. "I can see the challenge that these people face in trying to let go of that. The brain trains in patterns, so to untrain the brain is so challenging."
When learning to think differently about something Franklin said there is a common trend that it takes 30 days of saying and doing things differently every day to change patterns of thinking.
"Well imagine with (smoking), it's behavior and emotional so it's going to take so much work," Franklin said.
On the decline
It's no secret that national smoking rates for adults have declined over the years, lowering to 16.8 percent in 2014 from 42.4 percent in 1965, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While nationally smoking rates have declined over the decades, many health providers and officials are still working to reduce those numbers even further.
That includes Klamath Falls' own Freedom from Smoking classes that have grown in the number of facilitators, participants and partnerships in its 16-year existence.
The Freedom from Smoking program is a seven-week course and support group to help anyone interested in quitting by preparing them to quit in the first three weeks, quitting in week four and dedicating the last three weeks to maintenance and troubleshooting.
The Freedom from Smoking is a national program that has been localized in Klamath Falls, and has come together in partnership by Sky Lakes Medical Center, Cascade Health Alliance, Klamath Basin Behavioral Health and Klamath Open Door.
Kerri Burke, smoking cessation facilitator, has been teaching it for 10 years.
Well it's so important," Burke said. "It's the No. 1 preventable death in America."
Burke encourages anyone interested in quitting smoking to come to increase the likelihood of success. She said the state average is about 11 percent of people who remain smoke free after taking the course. Burke's success rate is around 33 percent.
"The wonderful thing, I have to say, is going out into the community and have one of my ex smokers run up to me and give me a big hug and say they are smoke free, and say 'thank you so much!' That's the best part," Burke said.
"Knowing that I've changed one person's life is enough for me."
Klamath above average
This spring the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, released the annual statistics on health outcomes ratings revealing that 18 percent of adults in Klamath County smoke.
That's compared to Oregon's 17 percent, and the top U.S. performers at 14 percent, according to the County Health Rankings website.
In 2011, the number of smokers was a bit higher, although the County Health Rankings website notes definitions and methods have changed over the years and to use caution when comparing data.
Generally however, adult smoking is the percentage of the adult population that currently smokes every day or most days and has smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime according to County Health Rankings website.
In 2011, 24 percent of Klamath County adults smoked, compared to 18 percent in Oregon and top U.S. performers at 15 percent.
About three years ago, Jennifer Little who at the time worked for Klamath County Public Health, wanted to offer the Freedom from Smoking classes in the evening for those who work an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and without much time off in between.
Sky Lakes Medical Center sponsored the project to train more facilitators for the evening classes.
"Then since we've added more and more facilitators and now we have seven," Little said who is now supervisor of Sky Lakes Outpatient Care Management. "We want people to quit, we want people to be healthy."
To find out about classes or to sign up visit the Healthy Klamath webpage or call Franklin at 541-274-7252.
'Even though nicotine is addictive, it's the pattern. How do you undo 1.5 million times you've smoked? I can see the challenge that these people face in trying to let go of that. The brain trains in patterns, so to untrain the brain is so challenging.'
— Valerie Franklin, Sky Lakes Medical Center Outpatient Care Management program coordinator