I quit tobacco and as a coach, I can help your employees quit tobacco, too.
The start of a new year seems like the ideal time to resolve to make positive life changes — and few resolutions have as much impact on health as quitting tobacco. As a leap year, 2020 offers your employees 366 opportunities to wake up tobacco-free for the rest of their lives.
Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be a challenge, and we know quitting tobacco can be especially difficult. However, having the support and a solid plan in place can boost the chances for success. The Quit For Life® Program offers 24/7 support, so your employees have an experienced coach by their side each step of their quit journey. They’ll never feel as though they’re alone.
Here’s how Quit For Life can help your employees set a quit goal for 2020 and work to achieve their life-changing resolution.
“Why do you want to quit?”
As a certified Quit Coach® with Quit For Life, this is the first question I ask most new program participants.
It’s simple: I want to know what their motivation is. I myself started smoking at 13, but when I had kids, I realized I wanted to live to see them grow up. Among the participants I coach, family is often a driving force that motivates a person to quit. In addition to family, concerns about health risks top the list. They may have seen a loved one die from smoking-related causes or had their own health scare that served as a wake-up call.
Sometimes if a participant doesn’t seem very motivated to quit, I’ll ask, “What do you think are the positive effects of smoking?” Usually, they laugh and say there aren’t any — yet they don’t know why they can’t quit. Usually, at that moment I reiterate my role as a Quit Coach and talk with them about the quitting process. It takes time to uncover each individual “why” but we get there together and I help guide them through the “how” of quitting. I want each person I work with to know I’m completely invested in their success.
For most of the employees I coach, smoking is habitual. When I ask about their smoking routines, they’re quick to answer, “I smoke when I get up in the morning with a cup of coffee. I smoke when I drive. I smoke after dinner.”
Smoking doesn’t happen in a void. In addition to habits, smoking can be related to stress, behavioral health issues, social factors and so much more. When a person tries to quit, they’re removing something from their life that may have been a comfort or a routine. Not only is that difficult, but it can also be scary and daunting.
Quit For Life provides support and guidance
I talk to a lot of people who try to quit on their own and simply can’t. There are many reasons why it’s a challenge to quit on your own. They may try to unsuccessfully stop “cold turkey” and need nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help with the transition. Others need someone to talk to whenever cravings strike or don’t feel comfortable talking with family or friends about quitting (especially if they’ve previously tried to quit).
Quit For Life provides evidence-based guidance and support tailored to each participant’s individual needs. Proven to help make it easier to quit, our comprehensive program offers a toolbox of resources including:
The behavior change professionals at Optum offer 24/7 expert advice, tips and encouragement via phone and text. We help employees identify smoking routines and develop action plans to change them. Many Quit Coaches are ex-smokers like me who share our personal experiences and understand the struggles of quitting. People appreciate this relatable support.
We also provide a judgment-free environment, which can be especially important for smokers such as pregnant women or those who have quit and relapsed repeatedly. Bottom line: They’ve reached out to us and we think the best of them for that.
Quit Coaches help each participant develop a personalized plan. Our integrated program addresses The Five Keys to a Successful Quit, which include:
• Setting a quit date
• Learning skills to manage urges to use tobacco after quitting
• Using FDA-approved quit medications properly
• Tobacco-proofing one’s environment
• The use of effective social support
Plus, Optum invests a significant amount of time and resources into strategy development and staff training to precisely address diverse ethnic, social and cultural groups and to tailor quit plans based on specific needs.
Participants may qualify for free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as nicotine gum or patches. The first-line treatment for quitting tobacco, these medications may increase the chances of quitting tobacco by two times or more and may save employees up to $800.1,2
By the way, we don’t recommend e-cigarettes or vaping as an alternative to smoking. The Quit For Life intervention is evidence-based and established by the Tobacco Use and Dependence Clinical Guidelines,3 and the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a quit aid. In fact, some people who have used them to quit smoking now want to quit vaping. We take the same approach with these participants and encourage them to move to NRT instead.
In a mobile world, we make it easy to get started. The Quit For Life mobile app offers fast enrollment with actionable, interactive and personalized content, expert coaching support available anytime, anywhere, and daily tips and urge management tools.
Our online learning course offers tips, advice and support to make quitting easier. Each video course has “interstitials” embedded in it, discussion forums, and quizzes to engage the user. The website features a health portal feature with options for Quit Coaches to access each participant’s quit plan and add to it during the calls. We can even make checklists to help with accountability and staying on track.
Text support: Text2Quit™ provides daily texts to help quit, deal with cravings and more.
Resolve to help your employees quit
I personally know how difficult it can be to quit — I smoked for 20 years before I finally quit for good.
It’s terrific if someone quits on the first try, but it isn’t the norm. The average person will try to quit four or five times before they’re successful. It’s common to relapse, and the one thing I tell people who are struggling is this: If you weren’t struggling, I would be very surprised because it is not easy.
Quitting is a learning process. Participants are learning to do something they’ve never done before, and no one expects them to get it right the first time. Everybody slips up – the important thing is to keep the momentum going by continuing to try. We find out what happened and what they can do differently next time.
There are many ways to help your employees quit tobacco. In addition to offering incentives to promote enrollment in a tobacco cessation program, employers can work with their Quit For Life Client Manager to develop a strategic communication strategy, implement outbound recruitment efforts and consult on a Tobacco-Free Workplace policy.
Empower your employees to start 2020 on a healthier path by quitting tobacco use and overcoming nicotine dependence for good.
Learn more about Optum’s Quit For Life Program now!
About the Author
Jason Hushour, Quit Coach for Optum
Jason Hushour has been a Quit Coach for five years. He lives in Washington state.