Resources available to quit smoking |

Resources available to quit smoking

Teri Vance
Special to the Nevada Appeal
Physician’s Assistant Carmella Downing talks with former smoker Bob Parkerson at Carson Tahoe Health. Carson City Health and Human Services and Carson Tahoe Health are raising awareness about the local resources available to help people quit smoking. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 775-445-7651 for more information. Photo by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Momentum
Cathleen Allison | Nevada Momentum

Bob Parkerson started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 years old. So four years ago when his cardiologist recommended he quit, Parkerson, then 72, was skeptical he’d be able to.

“I was smoking two-and-a-half packs a day,” Parkerson explained. “I’ve tried quitting before, and it didn’t work. I’d go back to smoking cigarettes.”

His doctor advised Parkerson to enroll in the smoking cessation class, Freedom from Smoking, offered at Carson Tahoe Health though the American Lung Association.

Individual counseling may also be accessed by calling 1-800-QuitNow.

Physicians’ Assistant Carmella Downing teaches the class at the hospital.

“Everybody has a reason for quitting, but I encourage people to have their own reason,” she said. “I have some people who say, ‘I’m here because my doctor told me,’ or ‘My wife said I have to come to class.’ But I encourage people to find their own personal reasons for quitting and doing it for them.”

It worked for Parkerson, who has been smoke free for four years.

“All of the sudden, I started listening to (Downing),” he said. “What she was telling us in the classes started making a lot of sense. I started doing what she asked us to do, and it worked. It worked great.”

He has seen his life turn around as a result.

“I can smell things better. In the four-and-a-half years since I quit, I eat better,” he said. “I don’t smell like a cigarette, and I save a lot of money.

“My health has improved a whole lot. My lungs are improving every day.”

Linda Graves volunteers as an assistant to Downing in the program. Graves’ husband had just enrolled in the course when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died shortly after.

She urges smokers to quit while they still have a chance, knowing the heartache that often awaits when they don’t.

“It’s really hard to watch someone you care about so much slowly committing suicide, because that’s what it is,” she said. “Eventually, they are going to die, and it’s probably going to be prematurely. And you don’t want to watch that.”

Statistics provided by Carson City Health and Human Services show one in five Carson City residents is a smoker.

“The good news is, quitting smoking can reverse damage already done,” said Sandy Wartgow, public health nurse with Carson City Health and Human Services. “The benefits of quitting begin as soon as one hour after the last cigarette. Quitting reduces the smoker’s risks of cancer, heart and lung disease, and other diseases.”

Parkerson said his success proves it’s possible.

“If you want to quit, please do,” he said. “It’s never too late to quit. Never.”