(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)
The Not On Tobacco program, which has had participants statewide, is now offered to Hernando County youths.
A program from the American Lung Association might soon help teen smokers in Hernando County kick the tobacco habit.
Linda Campbell, a facilitator for the Not On Tobacco program, said teen participation is voluntary.
"These young adults are not forced to be here," she said. "They should be here because they truly want to quit smoking."
Designed for people ages 14 through 19, NOT helps young smokers manage their stress in order to pinpoint the reasons they smoke, Campbell said.
"They may not even realize the things that trigger them to pick up a cigarette," she said. "People use different excuses to smoke, and it's all purely psychological."
Groups are segregated according to sex, Campbell said, because of basic differences between male and female smokers.
For males, she said, smoking is often a crutch in social situations. For girls, smoking often accompanies nervousness or depression.
Although there are physical symptoms of withdrawal, Campbell said the reasons for smoking usually involve peer pressure.
The program's support-group atmosphere includes a time to write in journals and slowly works up to quitting. Groups meet for 10 weekly one-hour sessions.
"On day one, they are still smoking," said Campbell, who stopped smoking 14 years ago. "We do a lot of talking about staying committed to the decision to quit. What we want is for them to put cigarettes out and keep them out."
Because participation is confidential, Campbell said, parental consent is not required.
"It's very important that these kids know they're not going to be in trouble because they smoke," she said.
The NOT program is supported through the Tobacco Free Partnership of Hernando County with part of the $2-billion legal settlement Florida made with tobacco companies last year.
In 1998, 1,200 teenagers participated in the program statewide, Campbell said. Last year, the number increased to 1,800. After six months, 21 percent of participants had stopped smoking and 76 percent had reduced their tobacco intake, she said.
The program is free. Campbell hopes to form two groups: one with 10 girls, the other with 10 boys. A time and place for meetings will be determined by response from interested teens. For information or to register, call Linda Campbell or Mark Springer at 754-4067.
"We don't tell anyone that the program will make them stop smoking," Campbell said. "They have to want to stop."