Norman Regional Health System

Monday, January 23, 2023

Norman health professionals are encouraging residents to consider healthier lifestyles by kicking tobacco products following a recent proclamation by Gov. Kevin Stitt declaring Jan. 18-25 OK to Quit week.

According to OK to Quit, more than 580,000 Oklahoman adults smoke, as well as 30,000 high school students, which puts Oklahoma 36th in the U.S. for smoking usage.

Brooke Walling, nurse practitioner at Norman Regional, said that the new year is a great time to stop smoking.

“We are in our third week of the year. We want to encourage patients to keep going [with their resolutions],” she said. “I tell people it’s never too late to quit, or for healing to happen.”

Walling said giving up smoking does a lot for patients because smoking is particularly harmful for those who are experiencing different diseases. She said it is important for smokers to work closely with a primary care provider to come up with a plan to cut out tobacco.

“There are lots of medications that can be prescribed, and there is 1-800-QUIT-NOW that gives out help and quitting tobacco products, but there are prescription medications that can be initiated by a primary care provider to help them reach their goals,” she said.

Oklahoma Tobacco Hotline also has information for those who don’t have insurance or a primary care provider.

Walling recommends that tobacco users take baby steps when quitting.

“It takes a lot of patience on part of our patients,” she said. “I try to get them to move their cigarettes to a different location so they have to go in a locked cabinet, or go outside to smoke.”

According to Walling, the body craves natural chemicals through patterns, not just toxic chemicals, and that bodies can recreate some of these natural chemicals through motions without introducing them to harmful chemicals.

“Cigarette users are used to holding something in their mouth or in their fingers, so I recommend getting cinnamon toothpicks,” she said. “They can sometimes suck on one of those to get that sensation of having something in their mouth, but they are not having to smoke at that time,” she said.

Walling does not recommend vaping as a path to healing, as is sometimes suggested by her patients. A problem with vaping is that nicotine content isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which makes it difficult to know what users are putting in their bodies.

“With vapes, like Juul pods, they can crank up the amount of nicotine so it equals the amount of a pack of cigarettes, and you never really know the actual dosage,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest concern from a health standpoint. When they vape, I don’t know how much they are really using, or how much they are actually taking in.”