Patient story: Coordinated care, group program helps smoker say goodbye to cigarettes

Melissa Swan

Melissa Swan completed the Freedom from Tobacco program.

February 28, 2020

Melissa Swan can now say something that she hasn’t been able to say for over three decades: she is not a smoker.

She also has a message to all the cigarettes she smoked over the last 33 years:

“It was nice to have you when I needed you, but now it is time to say goodbye, my friend. I am going to have a better life now. I am not going to stink and people won’t glare at me. I am a very strong person. I will never need you again. Thank you.”

How did she do it? Desire to quit, strength and encouragement from her primary care physician and a St. Peter’s Health registered nurse care manager to join a tobacco cessation program.

Melissa sees Dr. Betty Plate for all her primary care health care needs. Since meeting Melissa, Dr. Plate has been a partner in her health care, encouraging her to take steps to improve her overall health and well-being.

Dr. Plate connected Melissa to registered nurse care manager Tana Redfern, RN. Care managers like Tana serve on multi-disciplinary care teams at St. Peter’s Health clinics. Care managers work closely with patients to ensure they’re getting the right care, delivered by the right person, at the right time.

Over time, Melissa and Tana have grown close and they speak frequently.

“Tana helps me understand what type of care I need. For example, she’ll let me know when I need to set up an orthopaedic appointment or if I can be seen in Urgent Care,” Melissa said.

It was Tana who suggested that Melissa join St. Peter’s Health’s new Freedom from Smoking program. St. Peter’s Health launched the American Lung Association’s evidence-based tobacco cessation program in January 2020.

Quitting for good

Tobacco is highly addictive, and only around 4 percent of tobacco users are able to quit “cold turkey.”  The Freedom from Smoking program is rated as the most effective tobacco cessation program in the country. The program simultaneously addresses the physical dependence on nicotine and the behavioral dependence, or habit.

Melissa joined the group in mid-January 2020. After completion of the seven-week program, she has quit smoking for good. She attributes much of her success to the support she received from other program participants.

“It felt like family when I came here,” she said.

After five weeks without a cigarette, Melissa reports that she is feeling better already.

“I can breathe better, walk better and food tastes better,” she said.

Melissa recommends the program to all tobacco users – smokers, chewers and vapers. She also has a message for the nearly 75 percent of tobacco users who want to quit: “if I can do it, anyone can.”


Freedom from Tobacco

Widely regarded as the “Gold Standard” of tobacco cessation programming, Freedom From Tobacco was created by the experts at the American Lung Association. This program is led by St. Peter’s Health trained facilitators.

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