By Jennifer Park, Health Promotion Coordinator
Chatham County Commissioner Mike Cross started his journey with tobacco as a teenager because he wanted to try something new. However, after smoking for most of his life, he decided “enough was enough.” His firm decision to quit, rather than just “trying to quit,” has helped him stay smoke-free.
With the new tobacco-free Chatham County grounds policy going into effect March 1, 2016, Cross said that he did not want to ask employees to stop using tobacco while on county grounds if he, was a smoker too. The updated policy will prohibit the use of any tobacco product on county grounds, including county parks. The policy applies to, cigarettes, cigars, all forms of smokeless tobacco (e.g. dip), and other tobacco devices, such as electronic cigarettes and other vapor products.
“I’ve told myself I cannot do this anymore,” Cross said. “From a health and even a social viewpoint, I know I will be better off not smoking. I’ve always known better, I just haven’t done better.” Commissioner Cross encourages employees to stop tobacco use, but he recognizes it is a personal decision.
Making a firm decision to quit smoking, tobacco use or electronic cigarettes is difficult. Tobacco use is a physical, mental and emotional habit. Individuals may choose to use nicotine replacement therapy to help with the urges, or professional coaching to help change habits.
Commissioner Cross said that he’s found ways to help himself fight urges and change his habits. He might get busy cleaning his house or car. He also found it helpful to eat nutritious foods, avoid social situations where smoking is prevalent, and use nicotine replacement gum.
“You have to decide, ‘I quit!’ and stick with it,” Cross said, while consider the addictive quality of smoking. Smoking causes coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, decreased energy levels, poor circulation and poor sleeping habits. Cross said that he is looking forward to continued health improvements, feeling better, and not having the inconveniences that smoking brought to his life. With fewer places allowing tobacco use, smoking becomes an inconvenience and can mean missing out on social interactions when you have to go elsewhere to smoke.
“Take one day at a time,” Cross advised. He added that an effective strategy was giving himself small rewards for each day, week, and month that he was smoke free. “Have a grape!” he joked, or anything to focus on small successes. Tobacco cessation is not easy, making a firm decision helps override the urge, Cross said, adding that while his cessation methods worked for him, everyone is different.
Cross’ advice to youth is that “nothing good will come to you from using tobacco. Reflect on your decisions that will impact you today and later in life.”
Tobacco cessation resources are available by contacting the North Carolina Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Tobacco use is a relationship in your life, and only you can decide the power it has over you.