A common New Year’s resolution is stop smoking, and Medicine Shoppe Pharmacist Marty Hinterlong wants to do all he can to help.
Hinterlong has started a campaign where he will offer nicotine replacement products slightly over his cost.
About two years ago, he started donating nicotine patches to charity auctions. He said his recent endeavor is an attempt to bring smoking cessation to a bigger level.
“I just basically erased the reality of it costing more to smoke than to quit,” he said.
Hinterlong’s goal is to help at least 50 people kick the nicotine habit. In addition to offering smoking cessation products at a low cost, he has been blogging on various Facebook pages to encourage people and inform them of the long-term effects smoking has on the body.
“A couple of different things bugged me with smoking,” he said. “I don’t like it to begin with because it doesn’t make sense, and I see way too many people who are on inhalers and oxygen.”
Hinterlong’s aunt passed away from smoking, and his uncle had a hard time getting through the funeral because of the long-term effects of his smoking.
“He made it to the wake, but he couldn’t do the second night of the funeral because he was on oxygen,” he said. “He literally depleted his oxygen so he couldn’t even go to his own sister’s funeral.”
Hinterlong’s father also was a longtime smoker and passed away when he was 77 years old.
“People say 77 is good, but my mom still went another 10 years without him,” he said. “They’ve known each other since she was 18. So she lost her partner 10 years early just because my father couldn’t give up smoking.”
Hinterlong said his father started smoking when he was 14 because he was part of the older generation that didn’t know it was harmful.
“He was part of a generation where smoking was considered good for you or OK,” he said.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), every year in the United States, more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in this country. More than 41,000 people also die from secondhand smoke.
Tragically, each day thousands of kids still pick up a tobacco product for the first time.
Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco products. Cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. People who use tobacco products quickly become addicted to nicotine and thus have a very hard time stopping their use of those products.
Nicotine is not safe, according to the ALA. During pregnancy, nicotine exposure harms the developing fetus and causes lasting consequences for the developing brain and lung function in newborns, according to the U.S. surgeon general.
Nicotine exposure also affects maternal and fetal health during pregnancy, and can result in low birth weights, preterm delivery and stillbirth.
Nicotine’s harmful effects on youth don’t end with pregnancy. It also negatively impacts brain development in children. Human brain development continues far longer than was previously realized, and nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has been associated with lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention.
In high enough doses, nicotine also is a poison — children have been harmed or even died from drinking e-cigarette liquid.
Most smokers and tobacco users are dependent on nicotine. Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to quit.
Withdrawal from nicotine can mean irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances and increased appetite.
Nicotine Replacement Can Work
While it may seem counterintuitive, nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, patches, inhalers, nasal spray and lozenges can help tobacco users quit.
These products provide a lower level of nicotine than tobacco products and can help reduce withdrawal symptoms while the person transitions to his or her new smoke-free life.
Hinterlong promotes patches because he said they can be used in conjunction with other products, such as the nicotine gum.
“What you really want to do is put on the patch and use the gum for the breakthrough,” he said. “If you’re a heavy smoker, you start with the 4 milligram, then break to the 2 milligram. If you are a heavy smoker, you will probably have to go with the step one for two months instead of one.”
Hinterlong added nicotine replacement therapy is “fantastic” if it’s done in conjunction with other things, such as a support group.
Although he hasn’t started a support group, he said he probably will end up doing so in the future.
One of the hardest parts of quitting cigarettes is the social part of smoking and triggers that cause people to light up.
Hinterlong used his father as an example. A mid-level supervisor with many employees under him, his father was mild-mannered and soft-spoken man, who would use cigarettes to give him time to think about what he needed to tell his employees at meetings.
“What he would do is when he was going to say something strong, he would take the Pall Mall out of his pocket, then he would pack it, and then he would light it,” Hinterlong explained. “He thought about what he was going to say before he spoke. He lost that fuse when he stopped smoking. The only time he could really stop smoking was when he retired, which was too late.”
He said people need to focus on what triggers them to light up in order in ensure success.
“A lot of the social things need to be addressed, too,” he said. “A lot of people, after they eat, they will sit down and smoke in a particular chair. Well, that chair is going to have to be thrown out, or at least cleaned because it’s going to smell and remind them of smoking. So you have to change the social part of smoking.”
Hinterlong applauds CVS and other pharmacies for stopping the sales of tobacco products, but he feels it isn’t enough.
“As pharmacists, we got rid of cigarette products in our stores,” he said. “We basically pretended we were getting rid of smoking. But you can’t pretend when you can buy it at every gas station around. So we got rid of it, but they still kept it.
“So all we are doing is shifting the reality to somebody else. And I just said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and I’m going to try to do my best to hopefully get people to stop smoking.”
Hinterlong’s campaign is catching on with other pharmacies in the area. Sinks Pharmacy, after hearing of the campaign, also will offer nicotine replacement just above its cost. For more information on Hinterlong’s offer and campaign, people may call the Medicine Shoppe at 636-629-2022.