Mr. Mckenzie receiving recognition for being smoke free

When he watched a man puff a cigarette and blow smoke rings, Mr. Edward McKenzie thought it was really cool. Little did he know that the trick that once fascinated him would one day affect him in an interesting way.

Strange Beginning

Mr. McKenzie started smoking at age 21—even though he knew it didn't make sense. When he saw an older gentleman smoking and blowing smoke rings, he wanted to learn the trick himself. "If you want to blow smoke rings," said the gentleman, "you have to learn how to inhale smoke first." And so, McKenzie's addiction to cigarettes began.

When McKenzie started smoking, he thought it seemed cool and believed that the health risks were low. "Smoking became a part of everyday life," said McKenzie. "It was cheap to smoke in the 1970s and it was accepted everywhere." Over the years, however, smoking became a burden to employers (due to increased healthcare premiums and other factors) and most companies eventually banned smoking in the workplace. That didn't stop McKenzie and he continued to feed his habit.

The Turning Point

In 2017, McKenzie began to get sore throats and sores on his chest; he suspected it was related to smoking. He had a lung cancer screening and was grateful to find that he was cancer free. He decided that he would do something about his smoking and try to quit. Joining the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program at UM Prince George's Hospital Center was the best decision he could have made.

The Journey to Success

In the early stages of the Program, McKenzie struggled. Although every solution he tried seemed to fail, he was encouraged by several factors to keep trying. He had a friend who also joined the Program and they supported each other. He also read the Program literature which gave him more insight into why he formed the smoking habit. Lastly, the group sessions with other participants allowed him to hear how others coped with their habits and strengthened his mental resolve.

Mr. McKenzie also learned how to deal with the cigarette cravings; he exercised or occupied his time in various ways. "I would read or walk," he said. "I was determined not to pick up a cigarette because I did not want to go back to the Program and tell people I slipped or lie about using. I really wanted to win the battle."

The Right Support

McKenzie credits Latisha Vinson, Program Coordinator, for providing the right support. He found working with her to be therapeutic for him. "She's pushy at times," he said, "but it's necessary to keep me from resorting to bad habits." He also said that she understands and knows how to keep the Program participants motivated to stay with it and get the help they need.

After "kicking the habit", McKenzie no longer desires cigarettes. He has no more cancer symptoms, his health is in a good place, and he's happy. He reports that he never has a weak moment because "he's always on guard."

University of Maryland Capital Region Health wants you to guard your health, too, learn more about the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program at UM Prince George's Hospital Center.