Shelby Baptist, YMCA looking to help smokers quit

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby Baptist Medical Center and the Pelham YMCA are looking to help local residents combat tobacco addiction during an eight-week smoking cessation and support class.

During the class, which will be held at the Pelham YMCA off U.S. 31, Shelby Baptist Cardiac and Pulmonary Nurse Manager Gail Dinwiddie will help smokers beat the habit for good.

“You aren’t born a smoker. You learn to smoke at some point,” Dinwiddie said. “We want to help smokers learn to not smoke.

“It becomes a habit, and the habit becomes an addiction,” Dinwiddie added. “And it takes 21 days to stop an addiction.”

Each weekly class will focus on a different topic of smoking cessation, Dinwiddie said. For example, the first class will focus on many smoking-related negative health effects, and will help smokers identify the reasons they originally began smoking.

The smoking cessation program will take a gradual approach toward breaking the smoking addiction, and will not require participants to stop smoking on the first day of classes.

“You don’t stop smoking immediately. It’s not just completely cold turkey,” Dinwiddie said. “We actually set a stop-smoking date halfway through the program, and we help the participants become mentally prepared and build up to that stop date.”

Because program participants will have support from others in the class, as well as YMCA and Shelby Baptist staff members, it provides positive peer pressure to stop smoking, Dinwiddie said.

Although Shelby Baptist has sponsored several smoking cessation classes in the past, the upcoming class will be the first one held in conjunction with the YMCA, said Shelby Baptist Director of Business Development April Weaver.

“The program is just a perfect fit for both of us,” Weaver said. “Improving people’s health is definitely a goal that we both have.”

In the past, Shelby Baptist held the classes at the hospital in Alabaster, and past classes have produced a more than 75-percent success rate.

But by holding the next class at the YMCA, the hospital is hoping to draw those who may not feel comfortable meeting at a medical facility, said Pelham YMCA Director Lane Vines.

“Sometimes people may not feel comfortable going to a class at a hospital, even if they are completely healthy other than they want to stop smoking,” Vines said. “But by having it here, you don’t have to say ‘I’m going to the hospital.’ You’re going to the Y.”

Holding the classes at the YMCA will also give participants easy access to exercise equipment, which can be helpful for those looking to lose weight and get in shape while they stop smoking.

“A lot of people will gain weight when they stop smoking, because they aren’t exercising and they aren’t watching their diets,” Dinwiddie said. “Exercise is a big, important part of the cessation process.”

For those who participate in the entire eight-week program and graduate, the YMCA will reward them with a free two-month membership, Vines said.

Each smoking cessation class will begin at 6 p.m., and will end between 7:30-8 p.m. Cost for the eight-week program is $55, which covers course materials.

To register for the upcoming class, contact Dinwiddie at 620-8890, or e-mail gail.dinwiddie@bhsala.com.