Barry Mason, a paramedic for Choctaw County EMS, started using smokeless tobacco at age 13. Before he knew it, he was hooked. He tried to kick the habit dozens of times, but always fell short. At age 30, he was determined not to reach another milestone while still using tobacco. Now, at age 47, he has quit for good.
"When I started back at age 13, I was just trying to fit in with the rest of the guys. I started because of peer pressure," said Mason. "When my wife was able to quit smoking and had been tobacco-free for approximately a year, her encouragement helped me to finally quit. I had tried on my own but it would only last for a month or so."
Mason heard about the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline from a friend who had successfully stopped using tobacco. With sincere concerns about his health and the support of his friends and family, the Quitline turned out to be exactly what Mason needed to put smokeless tobacco down once and for all. "I could easily go through roughly 70 cans of chewing tobacco or snuff a month with a minimum of two cans a day or three cans at work," said Mason. "Ms. Pamela Luckett of the Quitline told me I had an addiction and it would be hard but she would be here for me."
The Mississippi Tobacco Quitline provides free assistance to any Mississippian who wants to break their dangerous habit. Callers can get help through phone calls, online access and even text messages. Mr. Mason considers the counseling services of the Quitline to be the most beneficial component. "Doctors don't provide counseling, support and follow-up so that you can understand your addiction to tobacco. The Quitline provides that just that, and even tough love if needed," said Mason.
Experts agree that getting professional help can make a huge difference for those trying to quit smoking. "I started with the Quitline in 2010 and had 17 cavities when I quit tobacco. I was always worried about gum disease or possibly having cancer. I was blessed not to have either," said Mason. The Quitline assigns one counselor to each caller, who works with them until they are ready to quit tobacco for good. Individual attention is very important and vital to the success of quitting. Mason laughs, "I still occasionally check the prices in the convenience store just to see how much money I am saving now. I could have been spitting a car payment on the ground every month."
Quitting can be made easier by calling the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW). The program is free. Available from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., callers to the Quitline can speak with health care experts about tobacco's impact on health, receive advice on successful cessation and, like Barry Mason, get free access to counseling and medications, and a little tough love if necessary, that can make quitting easier.
For more information about tobacco cessation information, visit www.tobaccofreems.org and "Like" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MSTobaccoFree.