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Oaklawn sponsors free stop-smoking program during March

People can get help and information about a potentially health-threatening tobacco habit during a free, four-part program hosted by Oaklawn Hospital.

The “Freshstart” program, developed by the American Cancer Society, is planned from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, March 17, 19, 24 and 26, in the large classroom of the Wright Medical Building, 215 E. Mansion St.

Registration is required to attend the free program, and may be obtained by calling (269) 789-7937.

“Smoking certainly increases a person’s risk of developing many illnesses, with emphysema and heart disease as a few examples,” said Jess Kingston, the hospital’s director of Cardiopulmonary, Sleep Services and Emergency Preparedness.

Tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, according to the society, which developed the program to help participants quit smoking through proven strategies.

Kingston and three other Oaklawn staff members, Durrie Pruitt, Russ Skinner and Marsha Soltis will facilitate the clinic. All are registered respiratory therapists and certified “Freshstart” instructors.

Each gathering will focus on a specific topic – “Understanding Why and How,” “Mastering the First Few Days,” “Overcoming Obstacles” and “Staying Quit and Enjoying It Forever.”

Following an open-discussion format, each lesson is designed to help participants understand the nature of nicotine addiction and provide solutions to quit the habit, Kingston said.

Participants will not be required to attend all four classes. Individual sessions may be attended without obligation to attend the others, Kingston said.

Class participants are advised to enter the Wright building’s south entrance and take the elevator to the third floor, where directional signs will be clearly posted.

Future sessions are scheduled for June 16-25 and Sept. 22-Oct. 1, Kingston said.