A Tobacco-Free Culture: Fairbanks Nicotine Dependence Program

Smoking remains a national health problem, especially among people who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. To help people who struggle with nicotine dependence, Fairbanks developed a partnership more than 10 years ago with Dr. Arden G. Christen, a dentist from the Indiana University School of Dentistry.

In 2004, Dr. Christen created the Indiana University Nicotine Dependence Program at Fairbanks to assist people who want to stop smoking and maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle. According to Dr. Christen, nine out of 10 people struggling with addiction are smokers, compared to the national average of the general population, which is two out of 10.

“It is more difficult for chemically dependent people to quit smoking because they smoke differently,” Dr. Christen said. “They inhale deeper, hold smoke in their lungs longer and have a different smoking pattern.”

Smoking at an early age can be dangerous because smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases. Nearly 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and women are caused by smoking.

“Smoking is an inhaled drug with 7,000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke,” Dr. Christen said. “The human body is not fully formed until age 25, but most people start smoking by age 18, which can delay or alter development, including brain development.”

The nicotine dependence program utilizes seven products for treatment including the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges, inhaler, nasal spray and tablets.

“These products are on the market, but they have to be used correctly and we coach our patients on the proper use of these tools,” Dr. Christen said.

Although it may be difficult, giving up tobacco is an achievable goal.

“Our goal is to change the culture and give people hope,” Dr. Christen said. “There are nearly 50 million former smokers in the United States and most effects of smoking are reversible. Quitting and improving your health is very possible.”

To learn more about this program, visit www.fairbankscd.org/tobacco-cessation.