Jan 8, 2004 — Forty years ago this month the Surgeon General issued a report on the serious health risks associated with smoking cigarettes. Soon after, cigarette packaging was required to note these risks to inform smokers at the point of purchase – with hopes the warning would discourage them.

Frank Eisele remembers when the reports first came out. “I was a freshman in college. I had been smoking since I was thirteen and the risks seemed so far removed from us, it had no effect.”

He notes that, for a time, he and his smoking friends switched to cigars – because they were in vogue. “Eventually, we went back to cigarettes,” he says.

A year ago, Eisele made the decision to quit. He began attending a smoking cessation group conducted by the Community Outreach Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. At the time, the Surgeon General’s warning had taken on new meaning. The health risks associated with smoking were no longer so far removed.

“I began to lose sensation in my legs. And when I talked to my doctor he basically said, if you keep smoking, pretty soon you won’t be walking.”

At the same time, Eisele learned that one of his sons would soon become a father. “I wanted to be around to see my grandchild grow up and I wanted to be able to walk and play beside him.”

His grandson was born six months ago, a good six months after Eisele had stopped smoking.

“I celebrated my one-year anniversary in November,” he notes proudly, adding “and it feels great. I’ve still got some problems with my legs, but it’s improving. Forty-five years of smoking has taken its toll. At least now I’m not adding to the toll.”

“Our smoking cessation groups offer smokers a warm, supportive atmosphere, where they share their challenges, triumphs and strategies in their journeys to quit smoking,” says Dr. Alyson Moadel, director of Einstein’s Psychosocial Oncology Program. “We recognize that smoking is a very difficult habit to quit and try to provide group members with all the necessary tools for achieving a smoke-free life.”

The six-week, low-cost program is based on relevant research in the field, addressing the cognitive, behavioral and psychological aspects of quitting smoking. Each session features guest speakers, including a physician who discusses drug therapy, a psychologist, a cancer survivor, and an individual who has succeeded in quitting. Group members also learn self-hypnosis, relaxation training, and breathing exercises along with helpful tips for breaking the habit and conquering urges and temptations.

“I found the smoking cessation group to be tremendously helpful and informative,” says Mr. Eisele, who now returns to talk to new group members. “The
nicorette gum is especially helpful, but bottom line, you have to be ready and want to quit.” He removes his wallet from a pocket and opens it to display a photograph of his grandson. “This little guy is my bottom line and already I’m reaping so many benefits.”

For information on upcoming smoking cessation group sessions, or to register, please call the Community Outreach Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at 718-430-2200.