More Music, Less Smoke, for the Great American Smokeout

For Immediate Release: November 19, 2003

Media Contacts:

Karen Garbarino
Vermont Department of Health

Mark Ray
Kelliher Samets Volk

Vermont Department of Health Encourages Smokers To Quit for Their Families

BURLINGTON–Former smokers are celebrating their smoke-free anniversaries while others are preparing to quit as part of the American Cancer Society’s annual “Great American Smokeout” on November 20. During the month of November, the Vermont Department of Health is promoting statewide and local initiatives for Vermonters who want to stop smoking and “quit for their families.”

Rachel O’Donnell, a 25-year-old Burlington mother who smoked a pack a day for more than seven years before quitting on Nov. 22, 2002, as part of last year’s Great American Smokeout, will likely spend at least part of this year’s Great American Smokeout playing the guitar or piano. The former pack-a-day smoker is now a music student at CCV, learning to play instruments as a “healthy alternative” that fills the time she previously spent smoking.

“I miss the hand jive of smoking cigarettes, but I’ve taken up the guitar and piano partly so that I have something to do with my hands,” said O’Donnell. “I’m no longer a slave to cigarettes, so I have more time for my son and my music, and I smell a lot better now!”

O’Donnell is no stranger to the ravages of tobacco. Her father suffered a stroke and heart attacks and he continues to have ongoing health issues stemming from his tobacco use. O’Donnell never smoked in the house when her three-year-old son was around, but she quit to make sure that neither she nor her son have similar health problems.

To stop smoking, O’Donnell called the toll-free Vermont Quit Line (1-877-YES-QUIT). She received advice and financial support through her insurance for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches and gum. She stayed in touch with her Vermont Quit Line counselor, calling when she had questions or wanted additional support.

Fortunately, the increased interest among adults who want to quit smoking is part of a statewide trend. According to the 2002 Adult Tobacco Survey, the percentage of smokers who attempted to quit smoking jumped from 44 to 54 percent between 2001 and 2002.

“Rachel O’Donnell and many other Vermonters have realized not only the enormous health consequences of smoking tobacco, but also the wonderful things they can do with their newfound time, energy, health and money,” said Commissioner of Health Paul Jarris, MD, MBA. “The Vermont Department of Health attributes this success to the availability of a broad spectrum of support services that include the Vermont Quit Line; media advertising; local cessation classes; the work of community coalitions; the rise in the state cigarette tax; and, most importantly, the strength of people like Rachel.”

There are many others who are not as fortunate as Rachel O’Donnell. Pam Laffin was a 31-year-old mother of two young girls who died at her home in Boston on Oct. 31, 2000, from emphysema. The Vermont Department of Health has made available Pam’s story as three 30-second public service announcements that are airing this month on broadcast and cable television. The powerful 20-minute documentary of Pam’s life and death, “I Can’t Breathe,” also has been distributed with a curriculum and suggested activities to schools around the state.

In addition, anti-tobacco community coalitions across Vermont are celebrating the Great American Smokeout with the “Quit for Your Family” theme. Local activities include:

Quitting smoking is one of the healthiest lifestyle changes a person can make, but it is also one of the most difficult. It takes most smokers five to seven attempts before they are able to quit successfully. Services such as the Vermont Quit Line are available to help all Vermonters beat these odds. Vermonters who want to learn more about the resources available can call the Vermont Quit Line toll-free at 1-877-YES-QUIT, or 1-877-937-7848.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, approximately 96,000 adult Vermonters smoke, and an estimated 1,000 die annually from smoking-related diseases, including heart disease and cancer. The Vermont Department of Health aims to cut the number of adult Vermont smokers in half by 2010.