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Do You Really Want to Quit Smoking?

By on March 1, 2019
Quit-Smoking

If yes, please read every word of this article

BY: DR. JOHN McELLIGOTT, DR. JOHN’S MEDICAL SOLUTIONS

Thanks to Julie Dillion, Rigs without Cigs Coordinator with the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund (SCF)
TruckersFund.org and their Rigs without Cigs tobacco cessation program, I became interested in how to help truckers quit smoking. The Rigs without Cigs program utilizes social support in conjunction with a device that gradually tapers drivers off of cigarettes. They have had a 24 percent success rate of total cessation and 31 percent success rate of reducing smoking by more than half. That’s great success! However, I realized that for those really heavy smokers, doctor intervention was likely needed to help them totally squash the habit.

Since I’m the SCF’s Medical Director and review 99 percent of its applications for assistance, I keep a close watch on the frequency and severity of smoking-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the most serious problems fall into the following categories:

  • Asthma & Secondhand Smoke
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Depression & Anxiety, Other Mental Health Conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Dual Use of Tobacco Products
  • Gum (Periodontal) Disease
  • Heart Disease & Stroke
  • Vision Loss Blindness

Each of these categories strongly applies to truck drivers who smoke. 

Strong Correlation with My Experience

For this discussion, I’m drawing heavily on my personal experience. My findings over the years are very similar to the studies conducted by the CDC, except for what was published during the years when a strong tobacco lobby influenced the politicians in Washington, DC. By extrapolations from my personal reviews of a few thousand charts for the SCF charity, the CDC’s findings closely parallel what is happening in the trucking profession.

I’m not a statistician, just a doctor who understands that truckers are dying prematurely at an alarming rate, and at a very young age. I can safely estimate that over a million drivers will suffer some degree of short- or long-term incapacitation each year from smoking and smokeless tobacco. Keep in mind that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide based on many scientific studies.

Ask Yourself, ‘Why Quit Smoking?

First and foremost, you’ll live a longer, healthier life! The financial incentive is a secondary consideration. If you haven’t already thought about it, I recommend that you do the math and total up the many dollars spent on packs of cigarettes, or other tobacco and non-tobacco products, including vaping. Many drivers spend up to $10K annually or almost $200 per week on tobacco or more bluntly, a nicotine fix. Think about what you could do to improve your life with an extra $200 every week. If you include the cost of the almost-inevitable smoking-related health problems, the cost is much, much higher. So the answer to the why-quit-smoking question is simple. Feel better, live longer and save money.

Smoking Cessation Breakthrough

I’m frequently asked, “What is the most successful way to quit smoking for truck drivers?” The answer is found in my considerable experience working with and advocating for driver health and wellness. 

You could try quitting cold turkey. While this method does produce some success, most heavy smokers find quitting cold turkey harder than anticipated. Some of you might even say, “Been there, done that.” The success rate rises to a level of approximately 25 percent if your spouse or significant other does not smoke. With a co-smoker in the house, the success rate sinks to 5 percent or less.

For those of you that have “tried everything,” your best chance of quitting is with the three-month Chantix program. However, you must be under a doctor’s care the entire time. In my opinion, Chantix is the best way for heavy smokers (2-4 packs/day) to kick the habit. Before the FMCSA banned Chantix in 2008 (now allowed by the FMCSA/DOT), the success rate was in the 50-60% range. Again, I can’t emphasize enough, the program must be regularly monitored by a doctor. In addition to routine contact to monitor any possible side effects, a doctor must certify that a participating driver is okay to continue driving while in the program.

Monitoring the Program

In most cases, the Chantix program lasts 12 weeks but can vary with the individual. Preprogram education that starts prior to issuing the medication helps achieve success and may shorten the time required. Side effects are minimal and, in most cases, include gas and nausea. These can be addressed with over-the-counter medications. Dreams and nightmares are infrequent but also a possible side effect. These topics will be addressed during the upfront education program.

Most potential psychological side effects have been identified and are addressed as they appear by adjusting medication dosage. Interestingly, one of the most difficult problems to overcome is “hand-to-mouth” addiction. The act of smoking requires that you constantly move your hand to your mouth. This becomes a very strong muscle-memory habit and can be difficult to stop. I usually treat this with sugar-free food and toothpicks.

As previously mentioned, the “doctor-monitored” protocol has been very successful, but the program is not perfect. Without preprogram education, counseling, nicotine replacement therapy and a strong commitment to stop smoking from you, even this program does not guarantee success. However, because the Chantix smoking cessation success rates are the best I’ve experienced by far, I recommend this program for all drivers who have tried all other methods and are still struggling with the addiction. If you are committed to hopping aboard the express to a healthier and longer life, this may be the program for you.

In conclusion, I recommend joining the “Over the Road Chantix Program.” If interested, contact the SCF call center at  800.257.9214 and leave a message. You’ll receive a callback with options and instructions. The first 100 drivers will be under my personal care (Dr. John). To learn more about Dr. John’s Medical Solutions, go to DocJMD.com. 

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