Kicking the habit

| February 03, 2008

February Health Hero Larry Purdy saved $300 a month when he quit smoking.

Larry Purdy of Unionville, Mo., has been a trucker for 35 years and a two-pack-a-day smoker since he was 14 years old. The owner-operator, leased to Daily Express, had tried to quit over the years but had never been successful. Finally, on April 5, 2007, Larry and his wife Veronica decided this would be their last day as smokers. They figured they’d join forces and quit together. It wasn’t easy, but they were motivated for a variety of reasons. Larry says he was sick of waking up in the morning with a hacking cough, hated the stale smell of smoke in his truck and resented spending the $300 a month to support his habit. In fact, once he quit buying cigarettes, he put that money toward buying a motorcycle. “I finally got the Harley-Davidson I always wanted,” he says. “That was a gift to myself for quitting smoking.”

While he’s tried and failed to quit before, this time his doctor prescribed a new drug, Chantix, which helps reduce cravings. After only a few weeks, Larry says he was able to walk around his truck without coughing and regained his senses of taste and smell.

Like many who quit smoking, Larry gained weight. “I know I started eating more, but I’m working on that now,” he says. He doesn’t want to trade one bad habit for another but feels confident he’s never going back to cigarettes. “It was such a hard thing to do, no way are we ever going to start that again.”

How long have you been driving?

34 years.

What was the biggest challenge in quitting smoking?

Finding other ways to occupy my time.

What did you hate the most about smoking?

Being treated like a criminal. There’s a lot of shame associated with smoking.

What kept you going during the tough times?

My wife and I did it together, so we encouraged each other. Plus, it’s so hard to start over, I think that fear of failure has kept me going.

Has your overall health improved?

Yes! I can breathe better, and my sense of taste and smell has returned. I don’t get out of breath so much. I can’t afford to get sick on the road, and this is something I can do to stay healthy.

What tips would you give someone who wants to do what you did?

Reach deep and just do it. Keep trying, don’t give up. Try toothpicks to have something to put in your mouth. Ask your doctor about drugs that help reduce the nicotine craving. Be careful about gaining weight.

What’s your next goal?

To lose the 20 pounds I’ve put on since quitting smoking.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?

“Quitting isn’t easy!”

What advice would you give a young person?

Don’t start smoking. It’s too hard to quit!

What do you do when you aren’t trucking?

Hunting (deer, bear), fishing and riding my Harley.

Fast Facts About Smoking

  • Worldwide, tobacco use causes nearly 5 million deaths per year.

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • In the United States, cigarette smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths annually, or about 438,000 deaths per year.
  • An estimated 38,000 of these deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure.
  • On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • For every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the length of time that people live with a disability by about two years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Spotlight on Products: Portable Health Profile
The new Portable Health Profile was designed to prevent deaths and aggravations of injuries due to medical error. It allows you to store all your medical information on a keychain-attachable flash drive, which can then be easily accessed by doctors, nurses or other hospital staff. Crucial information such as medical history, current conditions, medications, allergies, emergency contacts, ID info, pictures, insurance information, fingerprints, immunizations, lab reports and legal documents (living will, power of attorney, instructions/wishes regarding type of care) can be easily documented, organized, updated and retrieved at any time on any computer.

No technical or specialized computer knowledge is required, as the included software guides users through filling out all the info and saving it to the keychain flash drive.

The Portable Health Profile can be purchased online at the company’s site (, via phone at (877) 977-0389 or at retail stores nationwide. Price: $59.95.

Health Question of the Month:
My wife and I are in our late 30s and have decided to quit smoking. We are determined to quit but don’t want to gain weight either. What should we do? – Josh, Atlanta

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.
Good for you and your wife. Quit smoking. It will kill you, and lung cancer is no way to go! Smoking is also linked to Type 2 diabetes, bone loss and high blood pressure.

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