It was after that one look at her grandchildren that Evelyn York made the decision to quit smoking forever, which had been a habit of hers since she was 16 years old.
York said it was two years ago, at a wake for the man her grandson Georgie Lestuck called Pop Pop, that she made the ultimate decision to quit smoking. Georgie is the son of York’s daughter, Nicole.
“I was sitting there, and I just saw Georgie, who was 10 years old at the time, look at the casket, then look at his daddy,” she said. “He was putting two and two together, that Pop Pop is his daddy’s pop. I looked at him and thought, if that were me in the casket, I couldn’t put such pain on him as well as my other grandchildren at such a young age.”
With her grandchildren — Georgie Lestuck, Lauren Lestuck, Angelo Mesce IV and Lucianne Mesce — in mind, York set on her mission to quit smoking, which was aided by the free online New Jersey QuitNet program www.njquitnet.com offered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
“I want to live for them. I did this for them,” she said.
The free online N.J. QuitNet program is one of three customized smoking-cessation services for New Jersey residents. These services are provided via telephone through the NJ Quit line, online at NJ QuitNet, and at NJ Quit centers, which provide face-to-face counseling at seven locations around the state.
According to the N.J. Department of Health and Senior Services, approximately 1.15 million residents, or 17 percent of adults, smoke. Of that number, nearly 76 percent want to quit, but without help, only a little better than 10 percent succeed.
York said she found out about the free online Quit Net program when she was inquiring about Chantix, a stop-smoking medicine by Pfizer. Those who decide to use the medicine are asked to pick a date on which they want to stop smoking.
“They tell you to smoke for a whole week before that date,” she said. “What Chantix does is block that receptor that goes to your brain that wants the nicotine. So when the week ends and it’s time to stop smoking, your brain is not craving that nicotine; however, it’s the habit that you have to work on breaking.”
York said the support group was great.
“They sent related articles and checked up on you twice a day with an optional phone call or email. I chose email,” she said. “You were able to read testimonials by other people.”
York said the program tells you to clean everything in your house to rid it of the smell of smoke.
She said that with the early questions that were asked of her, such as how much she was craving a cigarette, using a scale of 1 to 10, she found herself answering 10, and when asked if she lights a cigarette when she’s happy or when she’s sad, she answered yes to both.
“I would light up a cigarette talking on the phone, I would light up when I was in the car, I would light up after dinner with a glass of wine, I would light up having my coffee and reading the newspaper in the morning,” she said.
York said that this was her habit for over 40 years, which began because she thought it was the “cool thing to do.”
“There were no warning signs about smoking being bad back then,” she said. “Elvis was smoking cigarettes. Smoking meant you were stylish and all grown up. I wanted to be that grown-up woman. It was cool.”
York previously had tried to quit smoking.
“Twenty-five years ago I even tried being hypnotized; it never worked, and trying to quit smoking was pure torture, so I continued smoking,” she said. “I was also afraid of gaining weight.”
York said she also looked at other drugs, but she was concerned about the side effects.
When she did quit smoking, she tried putting a mint in her mouth to replace the cigarette.
“I tried to trick my brain with the two familiar flavors, but it was not buying it,” she said. York said that through her ordeal, she realized how much of her life was affected by her smoking habit.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking I needed to go to the bathroom, and would light up a cigarette,” she said. “I realized I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, it was that addiction that woke me up.”
Now, two years later, York said not only has she quit smoking, she finds herself sleeping through the night and not drinking as much coffee or wine.
“I remember the time I drove to ShopRite and when I got there, I realized that I did not even think about lighting up a cigarette. It was a big step,” she said. “I was so excited telling my daughter Nikki on the phone.”
York added that she could have had four cigarettes during that half-hour phone conversation as well.
“Not thinking about having a cigarette was a big step,” she said.
York said the one thing she is learning to balance is the craving of sweets and breads.
“I never really craved sweets before,” she said. York said she still has the half carton left when she quit smoking, which she has tucked in her closet as a reminder to herself.
“I went to a checkup three months after I quit smoking, and my physician was amazed on how clear my lungs were,” she said.
Also, with not having to buy packs of cigarettes, which came to about $240 a month, York said she was able to splurge on a couple of items that she never would have bought for herself, including some jewelry and a potential vacation.
“You don’t realize how much you are spending on cigarettes or the actual number of cigarettes you actually smoke until the support group sends you these numbers that make you think. I just thought, Oh, I just smoke one pack,” she said. “Within 24 hours, they sent me an email saying, ‘Congratulations, you saved $6.50,’ and so on. Within a month, they sent me an email saying, ‘Congratulations, you have not smoked 580 cigarettes.’ ”
York, the one time heavy smoker, said she will probably never get over the smell of smoking.
“I still love the smell, and if people are smoking outside, I will go stand by them. But I will never light a cigarette again,” she said.