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Reach Your Goal: Quit Smoking

October 20, 2010

Washington Hospital Workshop Shows You How

If you smoke, you probably think about quitting. In fact, maybe you’ve tried to stop before. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a powerfully addictive drug that makes them difficult to resist. But there are steps you can take to overcome the urge to smoke and quit for life.

"Smokers need to understand it’s an addiction that is harder to kick than cocaine or alcohol," said Dr. Carmen Agcaoili, specializing in Pulmonology Medicine (lung doctor) and member of the Washington Hospital Medical Staff who will talk about the effects of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine at the seminar. "Even if you have tried before, it’s important to keep trying. Smoking is the leading risk factor which can be changed for preventable death."

She will present "Effects of Smoking" and Deborah Garcia, R.N., Master of Science in Nursing, a trained facilitator for the American Cancer Society’s Quit for Life program will facilitate the Stop Smoking Workshop. The workshop is scheduled for Monday, November 15, from 12 to 2 p.m., in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium. Room A at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register online, please visit or call (800) 963-7070.

Agcaoili will discuss the health effects of smoking, which harms nearly every organ in the body. Tobacco use is a major cause of heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer, she said.

"An estimated 80 to 90 percent of people who get lung cancer were smokers at some point in their lives, and 90 percent of all chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths were caused by smoking," she said. "Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemical compounds and many of them are very bad like ammonia, cyanide, formaldehyde, and arsenic, just to name a few."

According to Agcaoili, the positive health effects of quitting are immediate and continue for years. She will provide participants with a list, which includes: 24 hours after quitting, nerve endings begin to re-grow; after 72 hours, bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier; within nine months, cilia begin to grow back in the lining of the lungs; and after 10 years, precancerous cells are replaced with normal cells.

"The health benefits from quitting are enormous," she said. "It’s never too late to quit."

Taking the First Step, Preparing to Quit

"Quitting smoking is very difficult," agreed Garcia. "That’s why it’s important to have a plan. I’ll take participants through a step-by-step process that will help them stay focused on their goal."

Each participant will receive a self-care handbook they can write in and take with them at the end of the workshop. The booklet will help participants develop their own plan for quitting and stick with it.

"The first phase is preparing to quit," Garcia said. "We talk about the reasons they want to stop, and also what has kept them from quitting in the past."

Next participants choose their quit date. She said some have already quit, while others will need to set a date. There is no right way to do it, she added.

"Some people want to quit cold turkey, while others want to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke over a period of time," Garcia said. "They may want to go to their doctor and get medication that will help with the cravings before their quit date."

Coping with withdrawal is the third phase. She will talk about ways to cope and some of the medications available that might help with withdrawal symptoms, which can include headaches, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and intense cravings for nicotine.

"We’ll talk about activities they can do and maybe some foods that can help, like carrot, celery sticks and cinnamon sticks," she said. "Exercise and relaxation techniques can help reduce some of the anxiety and stress associated with quitting."

Staying quit can be a difficult challenge, according to Garcia. The final phase of the workshop is focused on helping quitters stay smoke-free for life.

"The workshop helps participants understand when and why they smoke," she said. "That way you can develop a plan for coping with your triggers so you don’t go back to cigarettes. For example, if you smoke at work to reduce stress, you can plan other ways to keep calm, like taking time out to do a few relaxation exercises. Participants will leave this workshop with their own individual plan for staying quit."

For more information or help with quitting, contact the California Smokers’ Helpline at (800) NO-BUTTS or To learn more about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit