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By Barbara Silver


When Robert Jenkins came into UNC Health Care System’s Tobacco Free Tar Heels (TFTH) program, he had been smoking since he was 15 years old (“too long,” he said). Like many teens, it was the “cool factor” that led him to smoke. He shared that he was so sick of smoking and had always wanted to quit. He knew in his mind he was ready to quit, but still had to deal with his daily triggers for smoking: morning coffee, after meals, and stress. A co-worker told him she had quit with the support of the TFTH program and suggested that he give it a try.

Hospital employees who participate in the TFTH program attend an hour-long initial interview, where carbon monoxide (CO) levels are checked with a Smokerlyzer, which gives CO levels in parts per million (ppm). A typical non-smokers’ level will be 5 ppm or less. On Robert’s first visit, his CO level was 47ppm, indicating heavy smoking and dependence. He was delighted to see that level plummet to 2 ppm after he quit smoking, which encouraged him and reinforced his goal of remaining tobacco free.

Mr. Jenkins began by using a nicotine patch and a nicotine inhaler (“puffer”). The patch helped by keeping a steady rate of nicotine in his body, and the inhaler was there for him to use when he had extra cravings. He particularly liked the inhaler because it mimicked the motion of hand to mouth that he also had when he was smoking.

Mr. Jenkins says that quitting smoking isn’t easy, but if you are ready – give it a try. Trying costs nothing and the medications are free through the TFTH program. Now he doesn’t even think about smoking and knows he will never pick one up again.

If you (or a family member covered by your State Health Plan) are interested in the Tobacco Free Tar Heels program, contact Barbara Silver at (919) 445-5358 or