A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Freedom from Smoking program leads long-time smoker Teresa Cecil to monumental milestone

St. Elizabeth Healthcare

A pack-a-day smoker for many years, Teresa Cecil is celebrating a monumental milestone: eight years smoke-free.

“I was so angry about the paycheck!” Teresa says. “I went into the class with an attitude. Our instructor had never smoked before, and I kept thinking, ‘what does she know and how can she help me?’” Teresa enrolled in the smoking cessation program at St. Elizabeth Healthcare because, as a smoker, her health insurance increased by $40 per pay period.

The Smoking Pro and Con List

The instructor, Joyce Jacobs – a Nurse Navigator at St. Elizabeth Healthcare – challenged the participants to create a list of pros and cons of smoking.

“I was moving at the same time that I was taking the class,” says Teresa. “As I packed, I realized there was a nicotine film on everything – the walls, my pictures, my furniture and more.”

Teresa Cecil

Creating that pro and con list – and articulating her dismay about the nicotine on every surface of her house – crystalized Teresa’s commitment to quit smoking for good.

“Joyce said, ‘if the nicotine is covering all of your possessions, just think what it is doing to the inside of your body,’” says Teresa. “It was at that moment that it clicked. I was going to quit smoking and never look back.”

Joyce remembers that breakthrough moment – and shares her pride at Teresa’s decision.

“What is exciting for me is that Teresa only took the smoking cessation class to save money on her insurance – she didn’t have the goal to quit on day one,” says Joyce. “I’m proud of what she has accomplished.”

Teresa stood by her commitment. She didn’t let anyone smoke in her new home and it has been smoke-free for the last eight years – just like her.

“I promised myself my walls would stay clean, and I’d never wipe nicotine off another picture again,” says Teresa. “All the things I cherished would no longer be covered in that junk.”

“I love the freedom” of being smoke-free

Today, Teresa is fit, active and happy – and smoking has long been in her rearview mirror. She no longer has cigarette cravings or even thinks about smoking. Instead, she dedicates her time to kayaking, walking, swimming, and spending time outside. On February 22, – the day after her 60th birthday – Teresa celebrated the eighth anniversary of her quit date.

“I love the freedom of being smoke-free,” says Teresa. “When you’re addicted to nicotine, you don’t move unless your cigarettes move with you. I would work in my garden and move two feet – and my smokes and lighter would move two feet, too.”

Teresa acknowledges that quitting isn’t easy. But starting the journey to quit will be the first day of a renewed life.

“You just have to get through those humps,” says Teresa. “It takes a lot of breathing, shutting your eyes, going to a quiet place, and working through the cravings.”

Teresa suggests rewarding yourself every few days with something small, especially those first few weeks when the cravings are intense. Between saving money on health insurance and the daily costs of cigarette packs, she eventually rewarded herself by buying a new – smoke-free – car.

Tobacco Cessation Support is Key

Teresa also appreciated the extra support she received at St. Elizabeth during those first few months following her decision to quit. Their daily check-ins and encouragement made a world of difference to Teresa – and now she wants to pay it forward.

As the Director of Environmental Services at St. Elizabeth, Teresa has a unique opportunity to bring greater awareness to others. She shares with other associates the tremendous health and financial benefits of living a smoke-free life.

“At work, when I hand out the benefits book to new associates, I make sure to point out how quitting smoking saves money,” says Teresa. “It’s a lot of money back into each paycheck!”

As for Teresa’s smoking cessation instructor? Joyce has become one of Teresa’s biggest cheerleaders when she sees her on the St. Elizabeth campus. Last year, Joyce worked in the St. Elizabeth COVID-19 vaccine clinic and happened to be the RN who gave Teresa her vaccine. The two celebrated Teresa’s smoking cessation journey and commitment to staying smoke-free.

“It feels amazing to have everyone still cheering me on,” says Teresa. “I hope my story can make a difference for others who are considering quitting. It’s worth it – it’s the best decision I ever made.”

Enroll in the Freedom from Smoking program

Enrollment is available for St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s next Freedom from Smoking class, a free seven-week tobacco cessation program developed by the American Lung Association and hosted by St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

For more information or to register for an upcoming session, call 859-301-5570.

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