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Sandy Henry likes being a non-smoker - credits incentives for getting her to quit

Sandy Henry and her two daughters
Sandy Henry is flanked by her two daughters, from left, Kit, 14, and Karsten, 17 at the August 2012 Douglas County Fair. Henry's daughters - which also includes Anna, 24, (not shown), are proud of their mother for quitting smoking.

Sandy Henry said she thought like most smokers: "We know it's bad for us. It's unhealthy. It's an addiction." But she enjoyed it.

"So, make it difficult for me and I'll quit."
- Sandy Henry, Department of Human Services

"So, make it difficult for me and I'll quit," said Henry, an intensive case consultant in the Department of Human Services Self-Sufficiency Program. She works in two service districts that include Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

First, the Smokefree Workplace Act in 2009 made it difficult for her to smoke at work. It was too inconvenient to smoke outside at least 10 feet from her building's entryway. So she stopped smoking at work.

"But I would tank up on nicotine before and after work," Henry said.

Then, in 2011, the Public Employees' Benefit Board, as a way to contain costs and to give smokers an incentive to quit, started a health benefit surcharge, meaning Henry's health insurance costs would be higher. The board's reasoning is that smoking increases the risk for asthma, cardiovascular disease, heart failure and several cancers.

"First you might wave the flag of righteousness. You can get indignant that anyone would tell you what to do. Then the logical brain kicked in. If you smoke, you're engaging in an unhealthy behavior — you're screwing with the odds for everybody else in the insurance pool," she said.

This incentive spurred Henry to completely quit. It was November 14, 2011.

Henry received smoking cessation help through her health benefits. She used medication, which was totally covered through her employee benefits. The medication, Zyban, completely took away her cravings for nicotine, she said, within 24 hours of taking it. With the cravings gone she could focus on the behavior behind the addiction and work on changing that. She also used the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line for phone coaching help.

But it isn't always easy. She still has urges to smoke, but she doesn't act on them anymore.

"Cut yourself some slack on your diet or your exercise routine. People need to be real good to themselves when they're trying to quit," she said.

It's been nine months since she quit. Henry said she feels fabulous.

"I really like being a non-smoker. I bring my fingers up to my face, breathe in real deep, and not having that nasty smell on my hands is just wonderful."

Tobacco Cessation Resources

The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line is a free, telephone and web-based program that helps callers quit tobacco. It offers free confidential, evidence-based counseling and materials. Callers may be eligible for nicotine patches or gum.

The Quit Line is open seven days a week, 4:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (Pacific time)

  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
  • Spanish Quit Line: 1-877-2NO-FUME (1-877-266-3863)
  • TTY: 1-877-777-6534

Online: www.quitnow.net/oregon/