There Is Help Available If You’re Ready To Kick The Tobacco Habit

Marlinton, WV – The West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention reported nearly 4,000 adults die every year in the state from smoking – and more than 400 die every year because of second-hand smoke. 2,200 children in West Virginia have lost at least one parent due to smoking-caused illness.

Despite these alarming statistics, West Virginia has the highest rate of adult smoking in the nation. Karen Larson, with the Pocahontas County Family Resource Network, is working in a five-county area to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use and where they can find help to quit. Larson says tobacco deaths are especially tragic, because they are preventable.

“Tobacco is the number-one preventable cause of death in West Virginia, in the United States and in the world,” she said. “Smoking, for example, kills more people than homicides, suicides, car wrecks, fires, alcohol use, drug use, Hiv and AIDS, combined.”

The expert says smokers should not feel safe because they are light users.

“It’s a very wrong assumption,” she said. “In fact, one of the gentlemen that I work with – he has a hole in his throat from where they’ve taken out his voice box. He was a light smoker, but it turned into cancer. So, now he goes with me to different places to talk to youth about the dangers of using tobacco products.”

Chewing tobacco is no safer than smoking.

“It can even be worse, because, if you have a 30-minute chew in your mouth, it’s equivalent to smoking three cigarettes,” Larson said.

Chewing and smoking tobacco both have malignant effects on the human body.

“The nicotine is very addictive and also cancer-causing,” Larson said. “But, they both affect your heart and a lot of people are not aware that it causes the heart attacks and strokes. It makes the heart enlarge.”

Larson says Pocahontas County lags behind other counties in the number of smokers seeking help.

“As far as participation in Pocahontas County – the month of March, we only had three people to call in to the West Virginia Quit Line, that 1-800-QUIT-NOW service, to take advantage of that program,” she said. “That’s really low numbers, compared to some of the other counties in the state. So, I’d like to see that increase.”

The expert recently met a former student from her stop-smoking class.

“One lady that I recently just saw again – when she saw me, she said, ‘Karen, I’m at day-past-900-and-something now and I’m completely tobacco-free and have been. I’ve saved x-amount of money during that time,’ she said. “She was just the picture of health. She had actually just finished running a 5K run.”

Larson says all smokers have to do is call a phone number to get help.

“One of the things that we offer is they can call the West Virginia tobacco quit-line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, where they can get free phone-coaching, free nicotine patches or gum to quit,” she said. “Also, I offer cessation classes in the local communities. like here in Pocahontas County, Greenbrier County, Fayette, Nicholas and Webster, and they can contact me at 304-799-6112, if they’re interested in those. It’s a one-time, three-hour class for tobacco users.”

Tobacco users and family members of tobacco users are encouraged to call 1-800-Quit-Now or contact Karen Larson at 304-799-6112.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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