After 25 years as a smoker, Alease Stokes was ready to take steps to quit.
In October, she called LIVE FOR LIFE, the Duke employee wellness program, and enrolled in a virtual offering of the Duke Tobacco Cessation Program. As a former half-a-pack-a-day smoker, she hasn’t had a cigarette since Oct. 9.
“I’m really proud of myself,” said Stokes, a patient service associate at Duke. “That’s the biggest thing, I’m proud of myself. The breathing is better. I can smell more now. I hadn’t realized how much less I could smell because of the cigarettes.”
Stokes had wanted to quit smoking since she started, and decided she was finally ready to do it this year by making a phone call. Libby Carver, a nurse practitioner with the LIVE FOR LIFE, met with Stokes and provided low-cost prescriptions to help her ease off nicotine. The ability to tailor the plan for Stokes is what has worked for her.
“I like that they’re there to help you, but they’re not judgmental and they don’t push you to do something you’re not ready to do,” Stokes said.
The Duke Tobacco Cessation Program, part of LIVE FOR LIFE in Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW), will resume its full programming, including in-person consults, after a pause due to the pandemic when LIVE FOR LIFE staff were redeployed for COVID-19 contact tracing.
During the pause that began in July 2020, the program continued to work virtually with approximately 160 active participants, but now staff and faculty can schedule in-person and virtual consultations starting Dec. 1.
The tobacco cessation program is the first of LIVE FOR LIFE’s wellness programs and services to return to an in-person offering, Carver said.
“That’s important because as everyone socially distanced themselves, they may have lived in a stressful environment during the pandemic, and they may have reverted to their old coping mechanisms and relapsed,” she said.
Available to all faculty and staff at Duke, the program provides initial and ongoing free support from a tobacco treatment specialist. Additionally, staff and faculty on a Duke medical plan can receive free visits with an Employee Health medical provider, along with low-cost nicotine replacement therapy like gum, patches or lozenges or medications, if needed.
After six months in the program, participants are eligible to have the medical insurance tobacco surcharge removed.
For Stokes, Duke’s resources helped her get started on her own journey. She looks forward to having her tobacco surcharge removed, and urges other to consider reaching out for help quitting, even if they don’t know how.
“If you’re ready to quit, then going through the smoking cessation program can help because they’re supportive,” Stokes said. “They’re there if you just want to make a phone call and need someone to talk to. If you need help with the patch or gum, they’re there for that, but like I said, they’re not judgmental. They don’t push you, it’s just at …….