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Adventists target smokers

Church calls on Gov’t to step up campaign to discourage future tobacco users

Thursday, August 15, 2013

IN a bid to assist the Government in its fight to achieve a smoke-free environment, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is training some of its professional members in strategies to help smokers kick the habit.

Over the Emancipation weekend, more than 50 pastors, teachers and medical practitioners assembled at the headquarters of Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Spanish Town to learn more about Breathe Free — the plan to help stop smoking.

"Since the recent ban on smoking in public by the Government, many individuals are expressing a desire to quit smoking," said Dr Milton Gregory, health ministries director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. "Hence, the Adventist Church has seen the need to empower as many persons as possible to help smokers to quit smoking."

Breathe Free is a holistic programme involving mental, social, spiritual and physical preparations and features a combination of group therapy, nicotine detoxification and lifestyle changes. It has been a programme of the World Church of Seventh-day Adventists since 1964 when intervention periods lasted five days. Currently it covers nine sessions lasting four weeks. The programme is, however, currently undergoing revision given new developments in science.

The recent three-day training included presentations, hands-on experience in counselling, simulation and testimonials from former smokers.

Jerome Logan, a 47-year-old Kingstonian who quit smoking 15 years ago through the programme, was one of them.

"It was a tremendous help to me. I am here today free from all ill-health of first-hand smoking," he said. "The information given can bring anyone to that place to give up smoking. Though it's a package, the physical side of it, which is a desire or appetite for nicotine, was the first to overcome. The spiritual side, which speaks to the real non-need and the damaging effect of smoking, was also important because it tells me that this which I desire so much is not good for me," Logan added.

He appealed to young people not to start because the habit is very difficult to break.

Programme participant Pastor Devon Champier said the experience was an eye-opener. "It was very informative and revealing and gives you a better appreciation of the difficulty that smokers have to quit smoking. The course has better empowered me on the need to facilitate and be patient with individuals in their fight to quit," he said.

Champier pointed out that the training covered so far was, however, not the final step in terms of achieving certification in the area as a practical intervention with smokers who want to quit would follow.

"We have to conduct a group programme with persons who want to give up the habit of smoking before we can be certified. The timeframe for this will vary according to the individual being counselled because the programme allows the individual to decide when they want to quit. Follow-ups take place after one month, three months, six months, to a year."

The main presenter at the training was Dr Elie Honoré, president of the Adventist Health Care Services in Inter-America, who said the recent ban on smoking in Jamaica needs to address other critical areas.

"The ban in itself does not accomplish much. It is just the legal aspect of the tobacco problem," said Honoré, who has been conducting the Breathe Free programme and training for the past 23 years.

"It protects non-smokers and smokers alike, but mainly non-smokers. It angers people because they see it as impeding their freedom, but they should see it as protecting those around them. For a ban to be effective there needs to be education for young people and children for them not to start. The Government also needs to provide professional help to those who want to quit," he added.

The Government of Jamaica's ban on smoking in public places took effect on July 15. Though shrouded in controversy since, the move makes Jamaica the fourth country in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to become 100 per cent smoke-free, after Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Suriname. It is the 17th country in the Americas to take the step.

The Adventist Church, meanwhile, has been warning its youth and the general public about the addictive and damaging effects of tobacco smoking on one's health for more than a century. It believes that there ought to be a "uniform ban on all tobacco advertising, stricter laws prohibiting smoking in non-residential public places, more aggressive and systematic public education, and substantially higher taxes on cigarettes" in every country. These measures, it said, could save millions of lives every year, lessen the burden of the health ministry's budget and keep millions of dollars in the pockets of a number of Jamaicans.

There are over 20 recognised programmes across the world to help smokers quit , with Breathe Free rated among the top 10, with a 74 per cent success rate after one year.