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Health Team

Drug Helps Hospital Employees Go Smoke-Free

Posted July 4, 2007 12:49 p.m. EDT
Updated July 4, 2007 6:23 p.m. EDT

— Area hospitals went smoke-free Wednesday, but some health care workers needed help to kick the habit in time for the deadline.

The hospitals have banned tobacco products indoors for years, but the new smoke-free policy applies to all hospital property, even parking lots, and applies to patients and visitors as well as employees.

The policy change was set more than a year ago, and hospitals offered special classes and nicotine replacement medications at half price to help employees comply.

"We stressed. You know, there's no way they can take away our smoking," said WakeMed employee Tracy Stancil, a 20-year smoker who said she  expected to be one of the last holdouts. "My inspiration for wanting to quit is my son. He's 12, and about a year ago, they told us that he had asthma."

WakeMed education specialist Debbi Hillman said health warnings usually aren't the convincing factor for longtime smokers.

"They really need to look inside themselves and (ask), 'Why did I start smoking? Why do I want to quit smoking? What are the benefits to me and my family and my job,'" Hillman said.

To help her quit, Stancil asked for Chantix, a drug that blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain so that cigarettes don't have the same effect.

"The smokers will tell you it's just a miracle to them. It's just a miracle medication," Hillman said.

Stancil said she has been smoke-free for three months, and she said she wants to convince other smokers to follow suit.

"Just the fact of getting up in the morning and not wanting to smoke blew my mind, and that was from taking this (drug)," she said. "I feel better. I breathe better. I smell better."