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What Happens In a Louisville Smoking Cessation Class

Daniel Bell,32, listens to facilitator Priscilla Ewing during a class.
Daniel Bell,32, listens to facilitator Priscilla Ewing during a class.

It’s the second week of smoking cessation classes at Family Health Centers in the Portland neighborhood.

This week, the focus is on attitude.

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The classes are based on the Cooper/Clayton Method. That’s  a 12-week program created in Kentucky.

Facilitators Priscilla Ewing and Mike Cooper ask participants in each of their classes how their first week went. They administer nicotine patches and share their own experiences with  quitting.

Gloria Ricketts says she most often has urges to smoke  while drinking a cup of coffee in the morning and after eating.

"The first few days I was just like I was when I was smoking every half hour I was having that thought. But now it's just become more infrequent the thought of having a cigarette," she says.

Quitting smoking may require several attempts, and many people who stop smoking often relapse because of withdrawal symptoms, stress and weight gain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the next two months, we’re going to follow three Louisvillians as they try to kick the habit once and for all.

This is Ricketts' fourth of fifth time going through a cessation class. She says she has completed the course twice but has yet to stop smoking permanently.

The 63-year-old had her first cigarette at the age of six.

Ricketts, along with her son and his fiance, are all in Cooper's cessation class.

So is Terrence Silver. The 59-year-old started smoking as an 18-year-old college freshman.

"I remember the first time I had a cigarette. I got so dizzy, but I kept on smoking until it became a bad habit,” he says.

Silver has  tried a smoking cessation program before. He also attempted to quit cold turkey, but he says he just likes to smoke.

"Even though I went through this class and quit, I enjoy smoking,” he says.

Daniel Bell goes to Ewing's cessation class every Thursday. He has been smoking for 20 years.

Bell, who’s living in a half-way house as part of his sentence for a drug conviction, says he is trying to quit smoking for his children.

"I got two little kids and currently I'm incarcerated, I've broke all bad habits, and I'm trying to break this one because my kids don't need to be raised around cigarette smoke,” Bell says.

Ricketts, Silver and Bell are all changing their routines now that they have decided to quit.

Bell walks five miles a day to avoid weight gain.

Silver says he’s trying to change a  routine that includes smoking during  breaks at work, while riding in his car and sipping coffee.

"The biggest urge is always when I get in my car. I always light up when I'm driving, but I'm working to overcome that. The urges will come but they don't last long,” Silver says.

Ricketts says bad news always causes her to reach for a cigarette. When she found out she had diabetes and glaucoma, she lit up. When her husband died in 2013, she briefly found comfort in smoking. She eventually stopped, but it was only a matter of time and circumstance before she started again.

But Ricketts says declining health is her main reason  for ridding herself of the habit for good.

"I have symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and COPD as long as I'm smoking. But as soon as I quit smoking, those symptoms disappear," she says.

Over the years smoking has given Silver a false sense of relaxation and become one of his favorite pastimes.  But ultimately, it is an expensive habit that he has to break.

"I can take this cigarette habit and increase my 401K, my IRA. I'm spending a lot of money on cigarettes. Cigarettes ain't cheap no more,” Silver says.

Bell says giving up smoking is about more than breaking one bad habit. It goes along with him creating the life he wants after his sentence is up.

"Everything I've done is so that when I do get out, I don't just get out. I want to be able to stay out. I want to be a role model to my kids so they can look up to me and be proud to call me dad,” Bell says.

This story was updated to correct Mike Cooper's name.