Quit smoking for your health
by Kelsey Taylor
It was four blocks from my house to the liquor store, and as a kid, I'd pedal my way there on my Schwinn to buy my mom, Shelly, a pack of cigarettes. I'd knock on the door and then press my forehead to the window so the clerk could see me, and I'd ask politely for a pack of Benson & Hedges Menthol 100s.
In the late 1970s, they let kids get away with this, and occasionally, the clerk would let me step inside to buy a pack of gum or potato chips. My mom smoked for 22 years, and I never considered having one of her cigarettes. They smelled awful, the ashes in the ashtray gave me headaches and if my mom ever caught me smoking, I'd be in big trouble.
After more than two decades of smoking, in 1995, the doctors diagnosed my mother with emphysema and COPD, and in 1998 the doctors informed us she would have to be on oxygen 24 hours a day.
Even though my mom has kicked the cigarette habit, she has recently suffered from complications of influenza and a bacterial infection in her lungs. Both incidents caused her to be hospitalized for long periods of time that in turn resulted in two tracheotomies to help her breathe more easily.
Since taking over the Angie's List smoking cessation program, I've been able to share my experience about my mother with employees who want to quit.
Utilizing pharmaceutical company Pfizer's Beat The Pack Program, I meet with employees on Wednesdays to teach them about the health risks of smoking, the immediate and long-term health benefits, and the financial savings of quitting.
The program allows them to share their success stories and struggles. I share my mom's struggles, too, and tell them how she temporarily lost her vision from the combination of medications for emphysema and COPD that caused her to develop several aneurisms, and how I almost passed out as my sister-in-law tried to teach me to suction mom's trachea area.
Those stories usually drive home the message that it can happen to anyone who smokes, even a loved one. In 2010, 21 Angie's List employees graduated from the smoking cessation class, and we expect that number to grow.
Last year our company started requiring employees to pay a higher health insurance premium if they smoke and on Jan. 1, our campus is going tobacco free. Our hope is employees who smoke will quit, and I've learned that a little tough love can go a long way.
At the same time, we never give up on employees, offering them unlimited attempts to quit, prescription reimbursement and a $1,000 bonus once they're smoke free for a year. We encourage you to join our efforts and commit to quit or give support to friends and family who are trying to break the smoking habit in the New Year.
Kelsey Taylor is a personal trainer certified with the International Fitness Professionals Association, a sports nutritionist and strength training instructor with more than 11 years of experience. For the past three years, she's worked at Angie's List as a wellness director/personal trainer for 400-plus employees.