Seven-week group program helps tobacco users quit for good

Courtney Cannon

Courtney Cannon has quit smoking after participating in the 7-week Freedom from Smoking program.

June 16, 2020

After smoking on and off for two decades, Courtney Cannon was sick of it: The terrible smell, the cost, the coughing and the health issues that were all complicated by smoking.

But today, Courtney has left the smell, the wasted dollars and the unhealthy addiction behind because she has successfully quit smoking.

Courtney credits her ability to quit largely to her participation in the 7-week Freedom from Smoking program at St. Peter’s Health. Freedom from Smoking is an evidence-based program designed by the American Lung Association that addresses both the physical dependence on nicotine and the behavioral dependence.

Courtney works in the St. Peter’s Health Medical Records department and learned about the class from her primary care provider Dr. Sara O’Connell and the organization’s weekly employee newsletter.

Courtney has tried to quit “a million times”. She signed up for the program hoping this time she would be able to quit for good.

The people make the difference

For Courtney, being on the journey with other tobacco users—whose experiences as users were similar—made all the difference.

“Meeting weekly with other smokers and chew users gave me the support I needed. People understood my struggles and offered tips and ideas,” said Courtney.

It wasn’t just the classmates that offered support. The trained class facilitators for her program, Jaime Larese and Martha Poell from St. Peter’s Health Wellness Services, made a difference, too.

“You learn a lot about the psychology of smoking. A pharmacist met with us to let us know what nicotine replacement therapy products we could safely use. There was even a workbook that was very helpful. It even came with a CD/download of meditation and relaxation ideas.”

Today, Courtney has the facilitators’ phone numbers programmed into her phone and can reach out to them any time she needs support.  When asked what made the difference this time and how she quit for good, she said:

“The people. They were there to get my back. Jaime and Martha gave us their phone numbers so we could text them if we were struggling, and the other group members wanted to quit. They weren’t fooling around.”

Quitting for good feels good

Courtney highly recommends the Freedom from Smoking program and has a message for other tobacco users:

“I’ve worked very hard to quit, and you can do it too. I’ve struggled and slipped a few times, but if you keep trying and use your support system you can quit.”

Nicotine found in tobacco products is highly addictive, and quitting can be far from easy. Many people who have successfully quit say it’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. So when people do overcome the addiction they deserve to celebrate and be celebrated. In Courtney’s words:

“It’s the best feeling in the world to know that you don’t smoke anymore. I’m proud of myself every day that I don’t smoke.”


Click here to learn about the evidence-based, seven-week Freedom from Smoking Program.