Before Carolyn Krachkowski quit smoking, she could not finish eating a meal with friends at a restaurant without excusing herself from the table to smoke a cigarette.
“Once I quit, I realized how intrusive smoking was in my life,” said Carolyn, a UPMC senior workforce analyst, who has been tobacco free for 502 days. “I couldn’t even sit at dinner and finish a conversation with friends. After a day of shopping with my friend, I couldn’t get back in the car until I smoked my cigarette, and my friend would have to stand outside with me in any weather.”
Carolyn’s husband, Michael, a UPMC contact center specialist, has been tobacco free for more than two weeks.
“Michael chewed tobacco for 23 years, and he couldn’t imagine his life without chewing so it’s a pretty big step for him,” said Carolyn.
Beginning July 1, 2014, UPMC staff, including employees, physicians, students and volunteers, will become smoke and tobacco-free throughout the workday. The policy change is part of UPMC’s ongoing commitment to provide the highest quality care in western Pennsylvania.
Carolyn believes small behavioral changes can make a big difference when it comes to quitting smoking, and she advises colleagues who want to quit the same advice. Carolyn said seemingly small aspects of a person’s routine can be modified to help curb the habit including using a different parking spot not associated with a smoke break.
Carolyn’s husband is one of many employees who quit his tobacco use with the help of UPMC resources. Staff have access to a comprehensive behavior modification program, including online support and one-on-one counseling with health coaches. Various medications are also available that can enhance the chances of successfully quitting, including nicotine patches, gum, nasal spray, oral inhalers, lozenges, and non-nicotine tablets.
Because sometimes a smoker needs more than one attempt before success, UPMC will provide staff with intensive support and preparation so that they can work without needing smoke breaks before the policy is implemented next year.
The difficulty associated with quitting is something Carolyn understands all too well.
“There are triggers,” she said. “When you see someone on TV who smokes, it makes you want to smoke.”
To cope, not only did Carolyn adjust her routine, but she also focused on the positive aspects of quitting through the Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation app on her phone. The app tracks how long it’s been since Carolyn stopped smoking, the amount of money Carolyn saved, cigarettes not smoked, and overall health improvements.
Carolyn said she is still working on her overall health. Since quitting smoking, both her heart rate and blood pressure have significantly improved. She is also hoping to reduce her risk of stroke to the levels of a non-smoker.
When it comes to quitting, Carolyn, who used to smoke one and a half to two packs a day, said it is all about your attitude.
“I learned to look at quitting in a positive way.”