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Quitter Wins With Great American Smokeout

Article date: November 15, 2006

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"For some people it's running a marathon, for some it's losing a lot of weight… but for me, quitting smoking is probably the most significant personal accomplishment I've ever had."


The Great American Smokeout, held each November, marks a milestone for Lynn Hancock, a public relations executive from Houston, Texas. Thanks to this nationwide event, she's been smoke-free for more than 20 years.

"To quit for good was one of the most difficult challenges I've ever had," Hancock says. "I absolutely loved smoking. But it can be done. I'm living proof."

Hancock was first introduced to the Smokeout in 1984, when a colleague who hoped to inspire her to kick the habit asked her to help plan some of the local Smokeout events. Hancock was inspired, and though she only quit for the day that year, she continued to be involved with Smokeout efforts in Houston.

By 1986 she was named co-chair of the local Smokeout -- the motivation she needed to quit for good.

"I thought it would be very hypocritical for me to chair the Smokeout and continue to smoke," she laughs. "One of the reasons I agreed to chair is because I thought if I made a commitment to chair the Smokeout, I [would] follow through and live up to the full intent."

Cold Turkey, Fruit, and Long Walks

So she quit, cold turkey.

"I know that for some people going cold turkey is really hard, but for me it was the only way," she explains.

To help her through, Hancock shook up her whole routine and followed many American Cancer Society tips for overcoming temptation and cravings.

She let her family and friends know she was trying to quit. Instead of smoking a cigarette, she ate fruit. She started making phone calls from her bedroom instead of the kitchen, where she was accustomed to lighting up. She skipped happy hours at smoky bars and said no to outings with friends who smoked.

"Because everybody knew I was trying to quit, I was able to do that without offending anybody," Hancock says. "I tried to explain to them that I was committed to quitting and until I felt secure in my ability to stop, I was trying to avoid situations where I might be tempted."

She also started a new exercise regimen, partly to avoid gaining weight and partly to have something to do besides smoke. To this day she still takes walks around Houston's Memorial Park after work several times a week.

A Little Help From Her Friends

Hancock was fortunate not to experience many of the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, like headaches, that sometimes plague smokers trying to quit. Also important were the frequent phone calls from family and friends.

"I got lots of support from my family -- and friends, because most of [my friends] had quit smoking," she says.

But like most smokers who are quitting, Hancock had a relapse. A week after the 1986 Smokeout, following Thanksgiving dinner, Hancock lit up again. The response from her family was enough to convince her to stop after just a few puffs.

"Everybody looked at me," she recalls. "That was the absolute last time I was tempted to smoke a cigarette. I know that's an anomaly for many people, but for me, the reaction was so negative."

A New Calling

More than 20 years later, Hancock is still smoke-free and still involved with the Great American Smokeout -- and other ACS activities as well. She has served in many high-profile volunteer positions with ACS and is a strong advocate of smoke-free initiatives in Houston.

Although she's no longer tempted to smoke, she avoids any establishment that allows smoking, because the smoke bothers her. She doesn't allow smoking in her home. And she is eager to offer encouragement and support to anyone trying to kick the habit like she did.

"I understand how enjoyable smoking cigarettes can be… and I know how difficult it is to quit. But I hope I can send a more encouraging, inspirational message and focus on [how] it's the best thing I ever did for myself."