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For St. Elizabeth Healthcare Nurse Jessica Brungs, it was a step she knew that she needed to take – and the Freshstart Smoking Cessation program was just the thing to help her take it. “Honestly, the main I reason I signed up for the program was because of the insurance,” said Jessica. “The health insurance premium for a tobacco user versus a non-tobacco user was significant enough that it was worth trying out the class.” Jessica asked her fiancé Michael if he’d join her in the Freshstart Smoking Cessation program, and to her surprise, he agreed. They both had previously tried quitting with no long-term success. Jessica and Michael began Freshstart together and relied on each other through the four-week program – and every day since. “We’ve kept each other accountable,” said Jessica. “The craving to smoke usually lasts only about five minutes. Having your person there to talk you through it, to distract you during that urge – it’s not easy but it has made us even stronger partners.” Setting Up a Success Plan The class provides the books and materials, as well as the key ingredient—support and encouragement from people going through the same struggle. “The material wasn’t new to either of us,” said Jessica. “But the class helped us set up a success plan. And being surrounded by other smokers going through the same journey helps to gear you up to achieve this goal. The encouragement was the game changer for us.” Jessica and Michael’s class grew close during the program, even extending their class sessions from the typical four classes to six. Everyone agreed that they needed the extra support for those additional two weeks, which helped to keep them on track for success. “In class, we learned about the hand-mouth addiction,” said Jessica. “Our class brainstormed ways to avoid it and we realized that smoking while driving was a big thing for a lot of us. I ended up making Ziploc bags full of Dum-Dums suckers for everyone in our group to leave in their car. It worked well as a smoking substitute while driving.” Upon program completion, participants receive a certificate which can be taken to their employer. Jessica was thrilled when St. Elizabeth immediately honored her certificate—she saw her insurance premium change to a non-tobacco user rate on her very next paycheck. Michael’s employer also reduced his insurance premium to a non-tobacco user rate after he showed them his certificate. Practicing what I Preach Jessica started as a CNA at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in January of 2014 and became a Registered Nurse in 2016. She works in the Telemetry Cardiac Unit (TCU), taking care of patients with cardiac issues. Jessica is well-aware of how timely her smoking cessation journey is for her patients. “I teach my patients about modifiable risk factors,” she explained. “Nicotine greatly increases your risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Now I’m practicing what I preach to them—I took that smoking risk factor out of my life. And it feels so good. I recommend the program to my patients and my family and friends.” The Freshstart Smoking Cessation program, developed by the American Cancer Society and offered for free by St. Elizabeth, is open to anyone in the Greater Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky area. Participants can pick a class that fits into their schedule, either during the day or in the evening. The class is also offered at a variety of locations. A Smoke-Free Future Jessica and Michael celebrated their one-year smoke-free anniversary on October 1, 2017. This milestone signals that their hearts are already healthier. The American Heart Association reports that just one year after you quit smoking, your risk of future heart disease drops 50 percent. After 15 smoke-free years, your risk for heart disease is as low as someone who has never smoked. That’s a milestone worth celebrating. Jessica and Michael also have another milestone celebration coming up— their wedding on April 14, 2018. “I’m so glad Michael and I made the decision to take the class,” said Jessica. “We are starting our marriage and this next chapter of our lives smoke-free and healthier. Our lives are no longer driven by our smoking addiction. It’s such a freeing, rewarding feeling.” Learn More About Freshstart® Freshstart® is a FREE 4-week smoking cessation program developed by the American Cancer Society and offered by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. The program is designed to provide group support to help smokers quit and individualized help to meet your goals. Smokers learn how to deal with the physical and psychological dependence to quit. For additional resources on how to quit smoking, please click here. To register for an upcoming Freshstart® class, call (859) 301-5570.