During a recent visit with a patient at Medical University of South Carolina, Stephanie Stansell, was delivered some promising news. The patient revealed that she had quit smoking exactly 21 days ago.
Stansell, who holds a doctorate degree in public health and works as the hospital’s senior in-patient tobacco treatment specialist, visits patients every day who are identified as smokers to assess whether they’re interested in quitting and offer ways to help.
She was happy to hear the woman’s news, especially once she pulled out her cellphone and showed Stansell the app she installed the day she quit. It recorded how many days she’d gone without a cigarette, how many cigarettes she hadn’t smoked during that time and how much money she’d saved by not buying any.
“She had saved $132 in 21 days,” Stansell said.
The woman then said she had set up an “adventure fund” and planned to use the money she saved on cigarettes to visit her son.
It’s the type of system that health officials say can help someone who wants to quit smoking stay motivated on a journey that asks people to change long-ingrained routines and sometimes their identities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30.8 million adults, or 12.5 percent, in the United States smoke. And though the last two decades have seen a significant decline in the number of regular smokers — CDC reports the percentage was 20.9 in 2005 — South Carolina is higher than average, with 18 percent of people smoking. Those numbers are even higher in rural areas.
Dr. Patrick Looser, an interventional cardiologist with Trident Medical Center, said people are generally aware that smoking increases risk of cancer and conditions that affect the lungs like asthma, but are sometimes less aware that it’s the No. 1 leading cause of preventable cardiovascular disease.
“It wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system, and quitting is one of the best things you can do, both for yourself and for your loved ones,” he said.
But quitting, especially cold turkey, is extremely difficult for people who have been smoking for years, many of them since they were young teenagers.
Bonita Minnis, a patient at Medical University of South Carolina, with Stephanie Stansell, Ph.D., MUSC’s senior in-treatment tobacco specialist. Stansell works with patients like Minnis and others on ways to kick smoking habits. Marquel Coaxum/MUSC Hollings Cancer Center/Provided
“In general, most people who smoke tell us that they would like …….