Smoking Story

January 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.

But January 2014 is also an important month, particularly for Tyrone resident Diane Colpetzer, 56, who hasn’t smoked a cigarette in three years.

“I started smoking when I was 14 years old,” Colpetzer said. “When I decided to put [cigarettes] down, I never picked them back up.”

Although Colpetzer had several unsuccessful tries with smoking cessation in the past, her health was the driving force behind her decision to end the habit.

“It was a little bit of everything that made me quit,” said Colpetzer. “I had a lot going against me: my kids were on me, I had breast cancer and diabetes. I knew I needed to look after myself.”

Colpetzer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, but she is currently in remission with a good health prognosis. She attributes this to her decision to get healthier and give up smoking.

“I’ve put on some weight, but it’s because the food tastes better,” Colpetzer said. “I can breathe better, walk better—I can do more now than I was able to before.”

In the fifty years since the Surgeon’s General Report was issued, remarkable progress has been made. Since 1964, smoking prevalence among U.S. adults has been reduced by half. However, it is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 440,000 people each year, according to the CDC and National Cancer Institute.

Tobacco also remains a top health issue here in Blair County. The Healthy Blair County Coalition (HBCC), a group made up of representatives from hospital and other health providers and human service organizations in the county, recently completed a community health needs assessment. Tobacco use was identified as a top health issue needing attention.

In 2012, the Tyrone Hospital partnered with the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Program to sponsor a smoking cessation program following policy changes that made the hospital a smoke-free environment. For Tyrone resident Jim Leeper, this was the first push for him to give up his smoking habit.

“When the Tyrone Hospital decided to offer a smoking cessation program, I decided to take advantage of the classes that were offered,” Leeper said. “I used the patch and nicotine gum with no cost at all to me.”

Leeper has worked in information technology support at Tyrone Hospital for about six years. When the hospital put forth their smoke-free initiative, Leeper and his wife both successfully quit smoking. It will be two years since they quit this April.

“At first I resisted [the policy] and I thought it wasn’t the hospital’s right to tell me to quit smoking,” Leeper said. “But when I realized that I still had the right to leave the campus on my break and smoke anyway, I decided that it was time for me to quit.” Leeper had been smoking for over 40 years.

Although Colpetzer and Leeper used different means to quit their smoking habits, the advice they have to offer to others who want to quit remains the same.

“Find someone to support you,” Colpetzer said. “My husband was great for me because he helped to keep me busy when I was craving a cigarette. It’s a habit from hand to mouth.”

For Leeper, his wife and co-workers supported him through the process because they were going through similar quitting experiences.

“We supported one another—employees and spouses—and because I was in the frame of mind that now was the time to quit, I was able to give it up,” Leeper said. “Smoking was not a good choice for my health, and I am glad that I was able to successfully quit.”

Employers and individuals seeking more information about smoking cessation can call the HBCC or visit their website.

-Spring 2014/Internship at The Daily Herald

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