So You Caught Your Kid Smoking - 4 Tips For Parents

June 09, 2010 12:07 PM by ryanc

Ryan Crawford, Quit Coach Supervisor, Service Delivery:


As a parent, you dread it. Wasn’t your little angel just learning their ABC’s? Holding up tiny fingers to show you “how many” they are? Suddenly they’re reading the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes, and lighting up anyway.

And you just caught them.

Does this mean your child is a hopeless addict? No. Your child is not destined to be on YouTube like the toddler in Indonesia who was trained to smoke 2 packs a day by his own parents. But you know it’s your responsibility to intervene. 

You wrack your brain for a suitable punishment. Depending on your child’s age, you might think a “time out” would be suitable. Rinse their mouth out with soap? Ground them? You might remember how your parents punished you, and consider making them smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in one sitting to make them nauseous with nicotine and shame.

So how far is too far?

Sewing your kid’s mouth shut.

Netra Bahadur Darjee in India did just that, so enraged by catching his 12-year-old son smoking that he beat the boy and took a needle and thread to his face.

Obviously this is wicked, horrific child abuse, no matter what country you live in. If this option crosses your mind as a viable “that’ll teach him” method, you shouldn’t have kids. But it begs the question, “what will teach your child not to smoke?”

1.) Talk with your children early on, before they consider smoking. Give them context if they’re already at an age when they need more than “I told you so.”

Don’t leave it solely to their school to teach them about tobacco. Educate them about the dangers of smoking, like cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, but focus on things that matter to kids: lower energy and diminished lung capacity for sports, smelly breath, yellow teeth, nasty fingernails, and even premature wrinkles.

Ask them why they started smoking to begin with. Find out which friends of theirs might be influencing this and call some parents.

2.) Punish, or Don’t. Tell your child it’s against the rules for them to smoke. Explain why. But no matter how disappointed or embarrassed or angry you are about them trying cigarettes, do not punish your child based on your emotions. If you decide to punish them for smoking, punish them because this behavior is not acceptable for your young lady or little mister.

Engage your child in the punishment. Ask them what they think would be a suitable consequence. I urge you not to force them to smoke more just to make them sick, as this just puts more carbon monoxide, arsenic, and cyanide in your child’s body. Recognize that experimentation is normal for children, and use what disciplinary actions have been effective for you and your family in the past.

3.) Quit Smoking Yourself. Duh. No one is quicker at catching your pot-calling-the-kettle-black hypocrisy than your offspring. Your child is statistically far less likely to smoke if they come from a non-smoking household or if they see their parents quit. This is especially the case if they’re sneaking their cigarettes from you.

4.) Seek Support. Find out what resources your child’s school offers. Bring siblings into the conversation (as role models or someone to be a role model for). Find out if other family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents) are encouraging your child to smoke, and assert with them that this is unacceptable.

Lastly, look for community resources like the Quit For Life Program that may be able to offer youth services. Professionals are out there to help you!

Free & Clear on Google Buzz

June 03, 2010 3:56 PM by erint

Erin Thompson, Content & Social Media Marketing Manager:


Now it's easier than ever to get updates from the healthy behaviors company's evidence-based programs. We've been building community on our Quit For Life Program and Mind & Body Program Facebook fan pages and expanding our efforts to deliver thought-provoking content through Twitter @Quit_For_Life and @Mind_and_Body. Visitors to these pages find encouragement and tips for program participants and others who are interested in learning how to practice healthy behaviors, as well as news items relevant to each of the programs.

But what do you do if you don't have time to check each site for news? No problem - now you can sign up to have updates from the Twitter pages, Facebook fan pages, and the Free & Clear blog delivered straight to your Gmail inbox. Check us out on Google Buzz at Free & Clear Inc, Quit For Life Program, and Mind & Body Program.

Thanks for listening!

Superheroes Don’t Smoke

May 03, 2010 2:04 PM by erint

Erin Thompson, Content & Social Media Marketing Manager:


When I think about superheroes, I think about courage.

Gary Ploski showed courage when he challenged the Supercool Creative ad agency to change their logo – an image of a Superman look-alike with a cigarette dangling from his lips. On Twitter, Gary reached out to Supercool, saying “Your superhero…is smoking? That’s not really cool.”

Will Chamberlain showed courage when, on his first day as Supercool’s social media strategist, he went straight to his management team with Gary Ploski’s complaint.

Supercool Creative’s management team showed courage by trusting their newest hire to launch a viral campaign encouraging people to vote for Supercool to change their logo.

Smokers and former smokers know a lot about courage. Smokers who make the decision to quit are courageous. Smokers who reach out to friends and family for social support are courageous. Former smokers who pour their time and energy into encouraging those who are currently quitting – these are the true superheroes, the courageous, the super-cool. They know what it takes to fight the terrible adversary of addiction, and they are brave enough to admit the struggles that come with committing to a tobacco-free life. If you need proof, just take a look at the stories on the wall of our Facebook fan page. The determination and hope that shine from the community that has grown there is humbling.

Courage isn’t fearlessness; it’s moving forward in the midst of difficulty, facing fear and the risk of potential failure. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. It’s moving forward with the belief that change really is possible.

Join the conversation by retweeting “@SupercoolAgency Change Your Logo #LoseTheCig.”

You can also visit our online communities on Facebook and Twitter.

The Out To Quit Series, Part 2: Beginning the Journey

January 20, 2010 9:08 AM by ryanc
Ryan Crawford, Quit Coach Supervisor, Service Delivery:


“What do you love about smoking?”

Lark’s question is greeted by silence. The meeting starts off quietly—everyone is still becoming acquainted. Today, Tuesday 1/12, is the second meeting for the Out To Quit group. We have 9 returning gay men seeking support in quitting smoking. This meeting, Session 2, is their first step on that road.

As a facilitator, Lark calls on each participant to get their thoughts. Dan and I assist by taking notes, but Lark asks me first, “Ryan, what did you love about smoking before you quit?”

The question was a surprise. I explained to the guys how I used to smoke hookah tobacco. “It was a fun social activity. I could do it with my friends and family. It was a Mediterranean cultural custom for me, too.”

Dan writes my answer on the whiteboard. The rest of the responses snap out like popcorn.

Dustin talks about his hectic days at work in politics, and how smoking relieves his stress. “It’s a reward,” he says.

Ergane explains that he uses cigarettes as an excuse to take a break.

Matt relates smoking to a creative ritual, always having cigarettes while he develops art.

“I’m gonna be honest,” Lark says. “I smoked because I looked damn good doing it.”

Why does anyone smoke? And more particularly, why do gay men smoke more than the general population? Check out Part 1 of this series for historical insight. But for the individual, day-to-day sense, the guys laid it out perfectly:

Dan, before he quit, loved the taste. It gave him a sense of rebellion.

“I love the way it makes me feel,” James says. He has a military tattoo inspired by Lucky Strike. “The chemical rush,” Michael adds.

Lark then asks the guys what they loved about their very first cigarette.

James started smoking after his experience with the military to cope with his traumatic experiences. He describes the memory of smoking’s glamour, like in Old Hollywood movies.

Ergane laughs and fiddles with his dreadlocks. He started smoking for a guy. He recalls wanting to look cool and edgy and “new” to impress his crush.

Smoking’s appeal for Lee and Dustin was to appear more masculine, to seem more attractive, and to mask the fears of their own femininity. “I didn’t want to be gay,” Dustin says. “Give me a horse, I’m the Marlboro Man.” Lee, a trans man, recounts starting smoking in the lesbian community and carrying the habit over through Lee’s transition into the transgender community in an attempt to look and sound more “butch.” Even after these men have accepted themselves for who they are, the addiction remains.

Then we start opening up to each other, begin trusting each other more.

Matt tells us about his absent father, how smoking reminded him of his dad, and how continuing to smoke was like keeping a part of his father in his life long after his father had left him.

And Michael speaks. He illustrates the story of his first tobacco use: his friend’s older sister gave him his first cigarette when he was a young teen. He reminisces fondly about it, about her, and then tears up. You can see the dots connecting in his mind.

“She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that has now spread to her stomach,” he tells us. “She’s three years older than I am.”

The room is silent again.

This is the reason why we’re here. Any one of these smokers could be in the same shoes as Michael’s friend. He’s scared that it could be him.

There are things that we love about smoking. There are happy memories associated with tobacco, comforting rituals and benign habits that repeat every day with each cigarette. Nicotine gives us a chemical rush. Cigarettes save us from awkward situations and give us excuses to take time to ourselves. Tobacco reminds us of home, of who we are, of those we love.

“We’re not bad people for having the cravings we do,” Lark explains. It’s all too easy to become addicted to cigarettes. “But we can satisfy them in other ways.”

Looking at the whiteboard, Dan, Lark and I explain that most of these things the guys love about tobacco are not because of the cigarettes themselves. The best parts of smoking are only the best parts of ourselves that we’ve given to cigarettes. We can still be cool, attractive, relaxed, beloved, culturally valid people without tobacco.

Our next session will discuss the opposite of today’s theme: what do we hate about tobacco? What will these smokers’ lives look like without cigarettes?

Check back next week for what the group has to say. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts below in response to this blog. 

The Out To Quit Series, Part 1: Tobacco and the LGBT Community

January 11, 2010 12:13 PM by ryanc
Ryan Crawford, Quit Coach Supervisor, Service Delivery:


It’s Tuesday, January 5th. By the time I finish work, it’s completely dark in Seattle and the traffic is thinning. I bolt uphill on foot to Capitol Hill, where I’m about to meet strangers—I’m hoping for five, maybe six.

I’m the last one to arrive at the Gay City Health Project, so I blush when I walk through the doors and all faces turn to me. More than five, more than six. There are twelve! These men and the two other facilitators are seated all around a table with nametags. I introduce myself, apologize for my tardiness, and thank them for welcoming me.

We are the Out To Quit group: a gay men’s tobacco cessation support network. I look at each of these men at the table, all ages, different races, and I smile. I’m going to help these men quit smoking.

What makes tobacco a gay issue?

According to the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network, the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT, or generalized “gay”) community is about 35% to 200% more likely to smoke than the general population.

This is a big deal.

The results produced by these studies are broad because our community is so diverse. Factors like age, gender identity, religion, socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, and access to cessation resources all play large parts in the gay community’s tobacco dependency. But one thing is certain: gay Americans are more likely to smoke than straight Americans.

Why is this? Many researchers have found this unequal tobacco use is due to high concentrations of advertising toward the LGBT community. In our newspapers, in our style magazines, in our community centers and bars and clubs: we are inundated with images of cigarettes and how beautiful they will make us, how fun they are… how riveting it is to be a camel… (I never got that, either).

Tobacco companies aggressively market deadly products to obtain the “gay dollar” by sponsoring Gay Pride events, offering free cigarettes for personal information registry, providing free coasters and napkins to gay bars, and more.

In the mid-1990’s, R.J. Reynolds tobacco company drafted a report to launch an ad campaign targeting gays and the homeless in San Francisco. The report was titled, “Sub Culture Urban Marketing,” or, “Project SCUM.” Though SCUM has been dissolved after court battles in 1998, Big Tobacco is still after the gay dollar. Gay employees are often hired to market cigarettes to us, from us.

As if advertising saturation wasn’t enough, add the unique pressures of the gay American, and you’ve got a struggle to combat.

The LGBT community in America suffers prejudices and discriminations that other groups don’t. In many states, and in the entire U.S. Military, we can legally be fired from our jobs for being gay or transgender. Anti-gay social norms, disparate civil rights, adoption and marriage inequalities, disproportionate HIV infection rates, and insurance battles lead to high levels of stress and alienation among gays.

Anxiety and loneliness lead to false comfort solutions like cigarettes. Cigarettes (which contain highly-addictive nicotine) become a reflex, and before you know it, we’re hooked.

35 to 200% extra hooked.

But there is hope. Industry leaders in tobacco cessation like Free & Clear have high success rates and can help all folks quit. With cultural competency training, our Registration staff and Quit Coaches are equipped to reach out to the LGBT community.

Small support groups like Out To Quit are also widely successful.

Tuesday’s meeting was an introduction: a call to action. Lark, Dan, and I will be facilitating this seven-week support group for our participants. This group of men will start out identifying why they smoke, why they want to quit, and developing goals for themselves. Then, as a group, the participants will support each other through this journey—all the struggles, all the successes.

I will keep you readers updated every week with the stories. You’ll get to “meet” the guys, get to know them, and follow us through the process from beginning to end. Find out what it looks like when gays fight tobacco, one quit at a time.

Specialized Tobacco Cessation Program Cuts Long-Term Costs

May 21, 2009 7:36 AM by jseidler
John Seidler, Professional Relations Director:


During the current recession, organizations are looking for cost savings wherever they can find them. There is particular pressure on employers’ benefits managers to try to reduce those ever increasing health care costs. There has never been a better time to contain cost increases by implementing a program like Free & Clear’s Quit For Life® Program.

Free & Clear happens to be in the right place at the right time. Our customer base and our sales continue to grow rapidly as organizations recognize what the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has been saying for some time, that “there is no better investment in health care for employers than a comprehensive tobacco cessation program.” Both the CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have cited Free & Clear as having a model cessation program.

Why has it taken so long for tobacco cessation to be recognized as an important benefit for companies to promote and provide? Until recently, some employers considered tobacco use to be a personal choice and not an issue for their concern as employers. This perception has been changing due to the large amount of media attention paid to tobacco issues and the growing awareness of not only the health risks but the economic costs to the employer. Still, less than half of all companies have any sort of a tobacco cessation program for their employees, and less than 10% invest in a comprehensive, evidence-based program like Quit For Life.

While tobacco use prevalence in the United States has declined significantly in the past few decades, there are still 45 million smokers who cost their employers an average excess cost of nearly $5,500 per year. Rather than just focusing on broad-based wellness programs for all employees, employers now realize that a evidence-based tobacco cessation program can have a great effect on the 20% of employees who create a disproportionate cost burden, both in terms medical costs and lost productivity.

Some employers prefer to contract for all of their wellness and healthy lifestyles programs from a single source like their health plan provider or EAP. Such organizations typically employ coaches who cover many topics like depression, stress, weight concerns, alcohol, tobacco, and a variety of health issues. They perform very useful coaching services but they are not tobacco cessation experts, and tobacco addiction is a very severe chronic condition.

To be effective in helping people to quit their tobacco addiction, employers need to rely on specialists like the Quit Coaches® available in the Quit For Life Program. Our many clients have acknowledged this expertise and have decided to carve out tobacco cessation from their other programs.

Employer Tobacco Cessation Site Launched by NBGH

November 26, 2008 7:21 AM by erint
Erin Thompson, Marketing Manager:


Last week the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) held a teleconference to announce the launch of their new tobacco website for employers, which coincided with the Great American Smokeout.

The NBGH hopes this site, which walks employers through the different stages of implementing a smoke-free initiative, will be the definitive resource for employers on tobacco cessation.

Dr. Fred Williams, Director of Health Benefits Management at Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, spent some time during the conference discussing the success that Quest has found with Free & Clear’s Quit For Life™ Program (See this and other case studies here) and the positive impact the program has made on Quest’s population.

Dr. Williams spoke of the reduction in smoking prevalence that dropped from 16% of all employees 2005 to 12.5% in 2007. He discussed the importance of employer commitment and employee engagement when launching a tobacco-free initiative, and announced that last week they celebrated the 3,000th person enrolled in the Quit For Life Program—a little over two people a day for the last three and a half years.

Williams concluded the teleconference by surmising: “So what have we learned thus far? I think it is that a combination of senior management support, effective education, fully engaged and enthusiastic volunteers and a well-researched and an effective tobacco cessation program can lead to significant success in improving the health of individuals.”

We encourage you to spend some time perusing the new NBGH tobacco site to learn more about how offering a tobacco cessation program can help you build a healthier workforce.

What's a Healthy Behaviors Company?

October 30, 2008 12:46 PM by erint
Erin Thompson, Marketing Manager:


The heart of Free & Clear’s mission has always been to address chronic disease through health behavior change. As a national leader in tobacco cessation, our goal for the last 20 years has been to help employers build a healthier, more productive and cost-effective workforce by teaching individuals how to overcome addiction to tobacco use.

As the number one cause of preventable death and disease, tobacco cessation has been an obvious battle to fight. Tobacco smoke, whether first- or secondhand, is responsible for an estimated 8.6 million cases of serious illness and 440,000 deaths each year. Free & Clear’s Quit For Life™ Program teaches individuals how to surmount the physical, behavioral and psychological obstacles that stand in the way of overcoming addiction. By engaging participants with knowledge and teaching them new behaviors and cognitive skills, Free & Clear teaches people that they can achieve long-term health. Equipping people with the skills necessary to live a tobacco-free life is one major step in the direction of addressing chronic disease at its roots.

Yet there is more work to be done. Another epidemic is close on tobacco’s heels. Currently two-thirds of America’s workforce is either overweight or obese, conditions that greatly contribute to increased cardio-metabolic risk (which can potentially lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and in some cases, premature death). Today, 80 million people have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is a 61% increase since 1991. The irony is that Americans spend $40 billion on weight loss programs each year. People want to live longer, healthier lives, but the programs available don’t provide adequate solutions. Deprivation dieting and unsustainable exercise regimes do not teach life-long skills for nutritious eating, physical activity and stress maintenance in an environment that promotes poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles and chronic stress.

We know that there is no quick fix to healthy living. Overcoming addiction to tobacco is not as easy as slapping on a nicotine patch. Obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight is not as easy as cutting calories.

As of September 2008, Free & Clear, Inc. has broadened its reach beyond the Quit For Life Program to introduce the Mind & Body™ Program, establishing itself as the healthy behaviors company.

Free & Clear understands that like quitting tobacco, achieving long-term health and effective weight management require embarking on a journey of knowledge, cognitive skill development and behavioral re-learning.

As the healthy behaviors company, Free & Clear is committed to guiding and engaging people in this journey. With the proper tools, people can change their thoughts and behaviors to align more closely with their genetic, biological and psychological make-up, learning and understanding how to live healthy, for life.

Smoking and Pregnancy: Stressed Moms Light Up Postpartum

August 07, 2008 10:50 AM by kenw
Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager:


If you think about it, pregnant smokers have twice the incentive to quit that the rest of us have – their health and the health of their unborn baby. There are few things as powerful as a mother’s love for her child. So it may not be a surprise to readers that pregnant smokers typically quit at rates higher than that of smokers who are not pregnant - men and women alike.

After all, smoking during pregnancy is the leading cause of poor pregnancy outcomes. This can include miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth, and a dramatic increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Quitting smoking early in pregnancy can dramatically increase the odds of having a health baby. For health plans this means much lower costs associated with child birth.

But, what may surprise you is how many women return to smoking after giving birth. Relapse rates among postpartum women can be as high as 80%. The causes for relapse are many. The long and sleepless nights of tending to a new born can be taxing. New mothers who are recently quit often yearn for those few, precious quiet moments they can call their own – and nostalgic memories of smoking can fit that need. Believing that quitting during pregnancy is important, many new mothers do not understand how important it is to the health of their baby to stay quit. Given the clear link between depression and smoking, postpartum depression can also trigger a return to smoking.

So while these higher quit rates among pregnant smokers are encouraging, they are really misleading. With the high relapse rate during the first 12 months after giving birth, the long-term quit rate is really much lower. Since most quit smoking programs are only a couple months long, they can be insufficient in their intensity to sustain a new mother into the postpartum period.

This is why the Free and Clear Quit for Life Program® developed a 10-call program for pregnant smokers. With more calls for pregnant women, the program continues support for the woman into the postpartum period. Prior to delivery, Quit Coaches® begin preparing the woman for the transition to being a new mother. They help them develop the knowledge and the skills to stay quit, and protect their young children from the serious harm of secondhand smoke.

Quitting smoking is the most important thing any person can do to improve their health, but with pregnant smokers and new mothers, the stakes are doubled. These women, and their babies, deserve all the help health care can and should provide.

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