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Ash Kickers Update

Breathe California Increases San Mateo Smoking Cessation “Completion” Rate to 213 in 2012

For the past six years Tobacco Services Coordiator Michela Christenson (below) has run the hugely successful cessation program. In this brief interview she talks about the methods, the obstacles and the success stories associated with the program.

Quit Rates from 2007-2012

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
105 129 154 172 201 213

ImageWhy was the smoking cessation program started and how long has it been in effect?
Our organization has been providing cessation services in the community for about 30 years. Throughout cessation history, we have used various evidence based curriculum, the most recent iteration being our very own Ash Kickers program. This behavior modification curriculum was created in 2009 by Breathe California based on the Prochaska's well know transtheoretical model, “the stages of change”.

What makes this program unique and why have you had such success in terms of people completing the program?
We have what I would say is a very well rounded approach to quitting smoking. Our program is offered in English and Spanish by trained tobacco cessation facilitators and includes tobacco education, behavior modification, a group support setting, nicotine replacement therapy, overall healthy living education and follow up to check in with participants after the course has ended. Another key component is the fact that clients may take the course more than once. It is very important to allow participants that may not have been ready to quit the first time around another chance to work the program and implement the tools they have learned with our support.

What can a smoker expect when entering the program?
Each course is 5 weeks long with 6 sessions in each course. They will meet once a week, twice in the third week in the city of their choice for an hour to an hour and a half each time. Participants are always surprised to learn the that they do not quit until the 3 week of class. It is very important in the quit process to be prepared for your quit, so we spend the first few weeks learning about each participants individual habit and coming up with a plan for that persons most difficult parts of the day. This is particularly important because most people that go back to smoking say that they had some kind of stressor or event in their lives that they were not ready to deal with. By putting a plan into place before that even happens often a can go straight to an alternative coping method instead of smoking.

What are some techniques used in the program?
Each session is based on a particular stage of change, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. During the first few sessions participants study their own habits. One exercise that seems to be very useful to clients is our tobacco track pack. This is done during that preparation stage by writing down every cigarette smoked throughout the day as well as time, whom, they are smoking with, the feeling they are experiencing pre cigarette and the how much they really need the cigarette or if it was one they could potentially give up. Participants are always surprised to actually see how many cigarettes are out of habit and not of need. This then helps then to come up with a plan for these situations. Another bonus people seem to enjoy are the “quit Kits we provide”. This is our 48-72 survival kit that includes several things to help to distract the hands, mouth and mind which are often the 3 things quitters have the most difficulty with. There are things like straws, rubber bands, hard candy, gum, stress ball, pamphlets toothpick and some other tricks of the trade all bottled up in a reusable water bottle.

Tell me about the facilitators and how they are trained?
Facilitators are required to participate in a Breathe California Ash Kickers certification training day. For new facilitators this is a full day training where we cover all things tobacco as well as the ins and outs of running and Ash Kickers class. After a facilitator is certified, they are then required to attend a booster session once a year to “recertify” and check in. If you would like to become a AsH Kickers facilitator contact the office for upcoming training dates and requirements.

Learn about Esther Muñoz, one of our long time Ash Kickers facilitators.

Once a smoker completes the program, what type of follow up do you do?
Each class facilitator is expected to do a 1 and 3 month phone or email follow up to check in and see how their quit is going. This is also the perfect time to ask facilitators about upcoming classes if participants have slipped or are struggling. Most facilitators as well as Breathe California staff can be contacted for support via email or by phone.

Why are the classes free to San Mateo residents?
Through funding provided by San Mateo Counties Tobacco Prevention Program, we have the ability to offer our classes for free to those participants living, working or going to school in San Mateo county and those outside of the county can take the course for a fee.

Where and when are the upcoming classes?
Our classes are ongoing and new classes start every month of so in different cities. We follow a seasonal schedule so we usually have at least one class in each city during each of the 4 seasons , winter spring summer fall. Check the schedule for any upcoming classes and register online by calling the office.

Page last modified on Thursday, December 05, 2013 11:04:13pm UTC