Effort to stop smoking targets certain groups Former smoker will lead course

June 22, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The woman who is organizing a free stop-smoking program through the Carroll County Health Department knows what it's like to quit.

Barbara White started smoking cigarettes in high school, when "it was the thing to do," she says. Everyone in her family smoked and she married a smoker. She hadn't planned to quit, but when she became pregnant with her first child, somehow the combination of tobacco and the changes in her body produced head-cracking headaches.

"I was just really, really sick," she says. Nothing relieved the headaches except not smoking. So she quit.

That was eight years ago.

Now Ms. White, a community health educator, is developing a program to help women, African-Americans and people with low incomes or educations stop smoking. People in those groups are most likely to smoke, health officials say, so the grant money that pays for the program is targeted toward helping them stop.

She has been working on the program since March, when the health department hired her for the three-day-a-week job.

Three trained teachers, in addition to Ms. White, are ready to begin the stop-smoking classes in various areas of the county. She also has self-help materials, such as Quitting Times magazine, for people who would like to stop but don't want to be in a group.

Ms. White said she has been trying to drum up interest among young female smokers who come to the health department's family planning clinic. She plans to approach other women when they come in to receive food vouchers in the Women, Infants and Children program, a federal program that provides food for pregnant women and young children.

Word of the stop-smoking program is being sent to other county residents with low incomes or education through social services agencies. Low income is defined by the standards to qualify for WIC, $12,599 maximum annual income for a single person, $25,808 for a family of four. Ms. White defines low education as a high school education or less.

She is trying to interest African-Americans through black community churches.

Ms. White particularly hopes to attract high school- and college-age women to the classes. She reasons that most of them who smoke have been doing so for only a few years and aren't heavy smokers, so it will be easier for them to quit.

"Most of them seem to have really mixed feelings about quitting," she says. They know it's not good for them, but many of their friends smoke.

The classes and the self-help programs will lead smokers through assessments of when they smoke and how much. Smokers log their cigarettes and make notes, such as, "I really needed that one" or "I didn't really need this one."

The records will help participants pinpoint heavy smoking times and identify what circumstances prompt them to smoke, Ms. White explains.

Classes will meet once a week for seven weeks. Class members will progress from motivation through assessments to "quit day."

Ms. White says the classes also offer stress management, weight control and group support.

A $17,000 grant covered initial costs from March through June. Ms. White says she does not know how much the county will receive in 1993-1994 from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for the program.

The state agency has a $600,000 cancer initiative fund to pay for smoking prevention and control programs, established by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in December. The initiative was prompted by news reports that Maryland has one of the highest overall cancer death rates in the nation. The cancer death rate in Carroll County is lower than the statewide average and slightly lower than the national average.

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