When John Peterson is behind the wheel of his race car, he's doing more
than just trying to win a race. With every lap, he's passing on a message to
racing fans about not smoking.
John is a race car driver, and his
team is Smoke-Free 83. With each lap, fans see John's car covered with
information about quitting tobacco, including a nationwide 1-800 number they
Off the track, John travels with his car and talks to
fifth graders about why they shouldn't start using tobacco. The kids hear his
message, sit in the race car, and even sign their names on the car.
John knows firsthand how hard it is to quit after you start using
tobacco. He smoked and chewed tobacco for 16 years before he was able to quit
Like many smokers, John started his habit back in high
school. After smoking for 10 years, John tried to quit on his own-but he wasn't
ever successful. "I actually thought I'd never be able to quit," John says.
Then one day John got an e-mail about a quit-smoking class offered through his
employer. He signed up-a step that put him on the right track to kicking his
habit. "The class taught me how to get ready to quit," John says. That planning
was the key to his success.
Lessons to learn
John had a lot to learn and plan for before he
His first step was to understand how the addiction
to nicotine worked. "I had never heard of dopamine before. It's the 'feel good'
chemical of your body. Normally your body dishes it out regularly to keep you
on an even keel. But in my case, my body wouldn't give me dopamine unless I
gave it nicotine. My body knew that dopamine was as close as the next
In the quit-smoking class, John learned about the
destructive path that tobacco and nicotine took while traveling through his
body to his brain. "I used to think tobacco only affected my lungs and my lips.
I didn't realize that all of those chemicals are flowing through the rest of
your body to reach your brain."
As soon as John knew more about
how tobacco affected his body, his next step was to make a plan. He set a date
to quit and figured out which stop-smoking aids to use. In past attempts to
quit, John tried both the patch and nicotine gum, but he didn't read the
instructions on how to use them correctly. This time, John was prepared. He
learned that no matter which aids he chose to use, being in the class meant he
had a better chance of quitting.
He worked toward quitting by
seeing his quit date as a finish line he would cross. When he crossed the line,
he would be a nonsmoker.
Strength from others
Hearing other peoples' success stories encouraged
him. His classmates told him that before they took the class, they never
thought they'd quit either. Hearing their stories gave John the confidence and
strength to go for his goal to quit smoking.
John also took
advantage of online help. "The online resource was a really good place to firm
up what I'd learned in the classes. The online part also calculated what I'd
spent on cigarettes. That was an amazing number-thousands of dollars, easily
enough to buy a race car."
All the effort John put into getting
ready to quit helped him stay focused on his goal and not give in to the
temptation to smoke. "The way I look at it is that it took all of this effort,"
John says. "If I blow it by taking a cigarette because of a craving, I'd have
to start all over again. It was a big incentive to not light up."
John's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview.
For more information, see the topic
July 6, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
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