Sara Duggin tried to quit smoking dozens of times.
“I was a serial quitter. I tried for 20 years to quit,” the 69-year-old Spokane resident said.
Duggin began smoking at 15, wanting to be cool. She quit at 20 for about ten years before picking up the habit again. The next two decades would be a yo-yo for her.
“I was either smoking and wishing I would quit or I was quitting and wishing I was smoking,” she said. After struggling with bronchitis and pneumonia and losing her ability to sing, Duggin was finally able to quit for good with help from a support group.
Duggin is one of the faces of a new Spokane Regional Health District and CHAS campaign, launched Thursday, to help people quit smoking.
The campaign, called Done My Way, encourages people to use evidence-based resources, many of which are free, to help them quit.
“A lot of people do try to quit cold turkey which unfortunately isn’t the best way to do it,” said Paige McGowan, who coordinated tobacco prevention for the health district. “Unfortunately a lot of people don’t know that and don’t know that there’s resources to help.”
Research shows the most effective method of quitting for people who smoke at least a pack a day is using some type of nicotine replacement, like gum or a patch, in combination with counseling. Either replacement nicotine or in-person counseling and support on their own are also effective.
About 15 percent of Spokane County residents reported regular smoking in 2015, McGowan said. While that’s down from about 18 percent in 2013, their goal is zero.
Though Spokane has many free programs available to smokers who want to quit, they’re not being used at full capacity, she said.
The Done My Way website, DoneMyWay.org, includes a list of local programs that can provide nicotine replacement therapy, counseling and other support. Many are completely free or covered by most forms of insurance.
By providing multiple options, McGowan said the campaign hopes to encourage people to keep trying to quit until they’re successful.
“Not everybody quits in the same way,” McGowan said.
For the campaign, the health district has worked with Inland Northwest Health Services to offer nicotine replacement therapy for free for people who either don’t have insurance or whose insurance won’t cover the cost of the service. INHS also has free tobacco cessation classes.
Duggin has found joy mentoring other people who are trying to quit. She said she often sees people start improving other aspects of their lives, like jobs and relationships, after quitting.
“They value themselves more and they get more in the habit of seeing themselves in a positive light,” she said.
After she quit, Duggin said she immediately noticed positive changes in her health. She runs about a mile and a half five days a week and goes to the gym for upper body lifting as well.
“If I had continued to smoke, 19 years later I’m not sure if I’d even be alive,” she said.
Perhaps most rewarding, she was able to regain her ability to sing. Her video for the health district ends with her singing the opening of “All the Little Horses,” a traditional lullaby.
“It’s kind of amazing at this age to be able to sing well anyway,” she said. “But to be able to sing well after trying to destroy the voice through smoking, it’s pretty huge.”