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Help for smokers -- New St. Mary's program starts June 10

That New Year's resolution to quit smoking fell by the wayside, but you've decided now is the time to try again -- hopefully with more success. St. Mary's Innovis Health and the American Lung Association are ready to help.

Starting June 10, Linnea Pajari will be holding eight sessions of Freedom From Smoking, which was developed by the American Lung Association. Participants will meet Tuesday evenings to learn alternatives, health benefits and that a support system can be good when quitting.

Pajari said she will have people within the group pair up for a buddy system and someone to lean on while quitting smoking. By pairing up with a buddy, Pajari said she hopes people will keep in contact after the program for support, if needed.

This program isn't just for people who have quit smoking, but rather for those that have the desire to quit. The first few sessions discuss being ready to quit and actually wanting to quit, and then the fourth session is the quit day, including a formal ceremony for quitting.

Pajari said this is the first time St. Mary's has offered this course. She attended training, where she learned how to cover the topics each session, and even tried out situations on those taking the training course with her.

St. Mary's is looking for six to 16 people to join the group. That number of people is large enough for support but small enough to ensure that same support.

"We want it to be worth it, to help them," Pajari said of the amount of people in the supportive program.

She said motivation is key to the program working, but she is there to help with strategies for getting people to quit and stay away from cigarettes in the future.

"The same things don't work for everyone," she said.

The American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program has been in existence for 25 years, and has hundreds of thousands of participates go through and succeed in the program.

"It's easy while you're in group, all this motivation, but it's lifestyle changes," she said is one of the keys to the successful program. People are more successful because of "behavior changes and continued studies bond."

With the hoped-for success of this first session, Pajari said St. Mary's hopes to offer the course again in the future, and can even offer it to businesses at a group rate.

"Over the years, it has been proven to work," she said of the Gold Standard program.

According to the American Lung Association, nationally, 438,000 Americans die each year from smoking related diseases; one in five deaths in the United States is due to smoking; smoking is the single most preventable death.

Those interested in quitting smoking through the Freedom from Smoking program can register at 847-0809 by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3. Cost is $165, due at the first session unless other arrangements have been made.

"When you think of the cost of cigarettes, you'll make up the costs (of the program fee) quickly."