CRESTVIEW — Penny Eubanks, West Florida Area Health Education Center’s assistant director and a former smoker, knows how difficult it is to quit smoking.
"A lot of times, it will take people multiple times to stop," she said. "The big thing is you have to want to."
Relatives can bring the subject to focus.
"When I quit smoking 17 years ago, it was primarily because of my son," Eubanks said.
Patricia Smith, who participates in AHEC’s Quit Smoking Now program, said her reason was similar.
"My son wants me to quit, my husband wants me to quit," the 47-year-old said.
Her son, Christopher York, who lives in Biloxi, said he would quit smoking if she would do the same.
"That's just more incentive for me to quit smoking," Smith said.
Another incentive is for her health.
"I have heart disease and high blood pressure,” she said, adding the former runs in her family.
Aiding her mission to quit that habit is AHEC’s six-week program, which provides free counseling and offers four weeks’ supply of free nicotine patches and lozenges.
"Most of the time, the patches are not enough for them, so we offer the combination treatments," Miriam Lavandier, the program’s instructor, a certified tobacco treatment specialist, said.
A box of nicotine patches can cost $30 to $40 per week, she said.
The state-funded program, which applies to smoking and chewing tobacco users, has been available at AHEC’s south Ferdon Boulevard location for the past six years. Tobacco users meet for one hour a week and learn effective ways to avoid tobacco use, cope with nicotine withdrawals and prevent relapses.
The Crestview location promotes health and wellness through several programs that serve Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia and Walton counties.
This will be the second time that Smith has participated in AHEC’s program; she completed the course two years ago.
"I just wasn't mentally prepared for it then," she said.
This time, with support from physicians, friends and family, she is determined to quit smoking once and for all.
"This is it, I've got to do it," Smith said. "It’s going to kill me if I don't."
Want to go?
West Florida Area Health Education Center is at 1455 S. Ferdon Blvd. Call 398-6965 or see westfloridaahec.org for more information.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.