Health Check: Care New England smoking cessation program

Kathy Aanonsen, a nurse at Butler Hospital and Sandra Medina, an executive secretary in the Department of Medicine at Women and Infants Hospital are just meeting for the first time.

But they're realizing they have a lot in common.

Both have been long time smokers. And both have wanted to quit.

"I've smoked for over 20 odd years," Aanonsen said.

"I started smoking after a life event at the age of 27," Medina said.

Starting was easy. Quitting, however, is not so easy.

Care New England, which includes Kent, Butler and Women and Infants hospitals, launched a new kind of smoking cessation program for its employees last year. And both Aanonsen and Medina signed up.

"So the goal was to move along the stages of getting ready to quit, or if they were ready to quit to actually get them to quit, because it is a process," said Domenic Delmonico of Care New England.

There were financial incentives for those who signed up, including weekly drawings for cash. Aanonsen netted several hundred dollars.

"It's a perk but to me the incentive was I want to live along life. I want to share my life with my husband, be around and my son. My son's always hated it," Aanonsen said.

"I would smoke in my car on the way to work, I'd smoke in my car on the way home. I never smoked in my house. I'd always smoke outside because I have a daughter who has asthma and who at a very young age had asked Santa for me to quit smoking," Medina said.

There was homework along the way and encouraging text messages. And now Sandra can say she has been smoke free since last April.

"I've got a little bit of jealousy," Medina said.

But she's heading in the right direction. She's cut down from more than a pack a day do about a quarter pack.

"With this program we had 255 people sign up for the program which is an amazing number of participants. Of the 255, 44 people actually quit," Delmonico said.

This innovative, financial-based smoking cessation program at Care New England was developed by ProChange. And it's now in its second phase. Those who continue to take part will be in either an incentive based group or one with no incentives. Hospital officials want to find out what role incentives play in smoking cessation.