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Howard Sutton, clinical support technician in the Department of Anesthesia, enrolled in the Tobacco Free Tar Heels program three years ago. Today he is tobacco free.When Howard Sutton enrolled in the Tobacco Free Tar Heels (TFTH) program three years ago, stress in his life seemed to be the biggest barrier to quitting smoking. After trying different strategies for dealing with stress, he always found himself turning back to smoking for relief.

During the TFTH sessions, he learned about medications to help deal with cravings, which were also a source of stress for him. Using nicotine gum, he quit smoking in October 2012. After his initial success, he re-enrolled in the program. This time he chose to take Chantix. After only two weeks on the medication, he was “done” with smoking, and has remained that way for twenty months. His ten-year-old daughter is so proud of him. She checks every day to see if he’s still smoke free. He feels grateful to respond each day: “Yes, I’m still smoke free.”

Howard acknowledges that it was rough quitting the first time, but glad that he had a second chance with the TFTH. The program works well for him, along with the added determination he brought to the second attempt. Letting go of the stress and putting it on the back burner has been an added bonus to quitting smoking. His sense of smell has improved and he can detect smoke on people coming into the hospital. He also has become an advocate for helping others become tobacco free. When patients he transports talk about wanting to go out for a smoke, he encourages them to try medication, telling them he quit and they can too.

Since he loves to cook, he was delighted to find that food tastes better since he quit smoking. He’s had fun experimenting with new spices and flavors in his meals. He gained some weight at first, as many people do, but as he felt better and did more walking, he lost it again.

Howard used a variety of strategies to quit and to remain tobacco free, including computer puzzle games to keep his mind active and his fingers busy. But perhaps the most powerful strategy involved his long-time passion for writing poetry. He shares the poem below — it describes his journey to becoming tobacco free.


After all is said and done, the resolution…

Can you do it all by yourself, not knowing when to ask for help? Does pride get in the way of your thoughts, even your heart…?

Do you lose everything you worked so hard for just by saying something for the moment? Only time will tell.

Being true to what you are trying to do will eventually reflect on you. So what are you trying to do? Trust. Believe it’s already there.

Don’t speak on something you truly don’t have your heart into. It’s easy to speak a lot. Hard to feel.

Stay true to what makes you You!

Only then do you truly excel – when you find you – does everything fall to the true place, which is where you want to be. Wonder who that is up to?

Just Saying.

Howard also attended TTP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration on May 5, 2017, and shared the following poem that also addresses his victory over his nicotine dependence.


You’ve made your move, so do your best

Like a game of checkers, monopoly, or even chess.

You’ve just gotten started on your road to success

There is no need to look back

The opposite of what you want does not attract.

Just Don’t Stop!

Keep your head to the sky,

No need in asking why.

It is just as easy to have a natural sky high

Believe to achieve.

Just don’t stop!

Whether you feel unwanted, unloved, let down or even pushed away

Our Creator, Our Lord loves you

One day you do find your way

Just Don’t Stop!

–Howard Sutton


If you or a family member on your hospital health plan would like support for living a tobacco-free life, contact Barbara Silver at 984-974-8455 or The Tobacco Free Tar Heels program and medications are free to health care employees and their dependents for twelve weeks.