URBANA — For Ed and Elizabeth Medaris, smoking two or three packs of cigarettes a day was draining more than the family budget.
Ed was starting to show signs of lung health issues, his wife says.
They got to thinking, if they quit, they'd be healthier — plus they could put all that cigarette money toward the new motorcycle they wanted.
It took a year to save for the motorcycle, says Elizabeth Medaris, a Provena Covenant Medical Center nurse, but it took only took her about a month to get through the worst withdrawal symptoms of quitting.
She urges other smokers to give quitting a try on Thursday, as the American Cancer Society holds its 37th annual Great American Smokeout.
The Smokeout is intended to be a day smokers can use to make a plan to quit, or, if they've already planned to quit, make their first smoke-free day.
The cancer society will provide free quit kits Thursday throughout Champaign County on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ed and Elizabeth Medaris of Sidney quit together about six years ago and Elizabeth warns it wasn't easy.
She had some early withdrawal symptoms — anxiety, a racing heart and some lost sleep — she says. But was it all worth it?
"Oh gosh, yes," she says. "I can go up and down the stairs, now."
And the financial impact? Cigarettes were costing her and her husband $4-$4.50 a pack, she said, and she was a chain smoker.
"On a weekend, I could smoke three packs a day myself," she recalls.
Even worse than the money cost, she said, her husband was beginning to show early symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a lung disease for which smoking is a leading cause.
Elizabeth Medaris advises anyone planning to quit to make sure to have a partner and set a goal. Those two things help a lot, she says. She and her husband worked together to quit and set a goal of using their cigarette money savings to buy their new motorcycle.
Some other tips she offers: Get your ashtrays out of sight. And go see your physician. A doctor can advise you about the symptoms you'll experience and advise you about medications available to help, she says.
It also helps to be off from work on your quit day, Medaris says.
"Make it a day you can be by yourself and do what you need to do," she advises. "Keep some nibbles around."
For her, it was mints and lollipops, she says. For some people, cinnamon sticks or cinnamon toothpicks do the trick.
Know your smoking triggers and be prepared, Medaris also advises: She used to light a cigarette as soon as she got into her car, so she had one of her trusty lollipops ready to use as a substitute, she said.
You might also want to be prepared for some weight gain, she says. Food tastes better after you quit smoking and that nibbling adds up. But know you can also lose the weight after you quit, and limit weight gain by limiting snacks and exercising, she said.
"It's not easy. It is difficult. You have to focus on every single day, every day," Medaris said. "I will not pick up a cigarette. Today, I will not smoke."
The Cancer Society says Great American Smokeout quit kits will be available Thursday at the following locations in Champaign County: Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County, Rantoul Public Library, Parkland College Wellness Center, Planned Parenthood in Champaign, University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center, UI McKinley Health Center, UI Beckman Institute, UI Campus Recreation Center East and on the UI Quad.
Quit kits are also available at the health departments in Vermilion, Moultrie and Coles counties.
More information about the Great American Smokeout and quitting smoking: http://bit.ly/WtsMaq