Gulf County residents looking to kick the smoking habit are invited to attend the free Tools to Quit class being offered at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf on June 13.

Gulf County residents looking to kick the smoking habit are invited to attend the free Tools to Quit class being offered at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf on June 13.

The annual program, presented by Big Bend Area Health Education Center, Inc. is in its sixth year and features a curriculum created by former smokers who successfully quit. The two-hour class provides attendees with a checklist, items to assist in the cessation process and the motivation to toss their old habits to the curb, rather than tossing a cigarette butt.

“For anyone interested in quitting, it’s valuable for them to attend,” said Brigitta Nuccio, Associate Tobacco Program Manager for Big Bend AHEC. “We provide practical info to help quit.”

The Big Bend AHEC works with the Gulf County Health Department to offer three resources to those who desire to call themselves “former smokers.”

The AHEC offers face-to-face counseling, Tobacco Free Florida offers quitting assistance through the internet and the Florida Quitline offers counseling by telephone.

The event, originally hosted at the Gulf County Health Department moved to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf when it opened three years ago. Nuccio teamed up with the hospital’s then Director of Nursing, Kathy Chastain, who was eager to bring the program to the new campus.

Lung cancer is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

Tobacco use accounts for 30 percent of cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer mortalities. In the last year alone there were 228,190 new cases of lung cancer in the United States and 159,480 deaths from the disease.

While 70 percent of smokers have the desire to quit, only 4-7 percent are successful. Nuccio hopes to do her part in raising that number.

“The more counseling and the more medications someone uses, the better their chance of quitting,” she said.

Free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges will be available to those who register to help them fight cravings on their journey toward success.

Florida has made strides toward becoming a tobacco-free state.

In addition to raising awareness on the dangers of smoking in multi-unit housing and the equal dangers of smokeless tobacco, organizations like Tobacco Free Florida have made note of how smoking affects education and nature.

In Florida, 19 college campuses and universities have enacted smoke-free policies and many elementary and high schools no longer allow tobacco use on property.

This lowers the risk of students being exposed to second-hand smoke and de-normalizing tobacco use through positive role modeling.

Parks and beaches in the sunshine state are also putting a ban on butts. In addition to destroying the human body, tobacco plays havoc on the environment. As the most-littered item in the world, cigarette butts accumulate as waste in lakes, oceans and beaches.

According to the Tobacco Free Florida organization, each year, an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts accumulate on the planet and only 10 percent of the butts are disposed of properly in ash trays.

The litter is toxic, slow to decompose and expensive to manage.

The average class size for the Tools to Quit class is five people but Nuccio aims to grow attendance each year. The quit rate for those who attended the class was 36.5 percent.

“You must plan and prepare in order to be successful,” said Nuccio.

The free Tools to Quit class will take place at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. ET. To register or for more information contact Nuccio at 850-482-6500.