Arguably, the group most impacted by the events of September 11 is the firefighters and EMS workers for the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). Persistent respiratory problems following the attacks, including "World Trade Center Cough," combined with the everyday dangers of smoke inhalation and exposure, make lung health a top priority for the department.
To encourage the 2,000 New York City firefighters who smoke to quit, the FDNY will today kick off a new smoking cessation program for firefighters, EMS rescue workers and their spouses.
"One of the most important things a firefighter can do to protect his or her respiratory health is to quit smoking," said David J. Prezant, MD, FCCP, FDNY's deputy medical officer and co-designer of the program. "But breaking the tobacco addiction is no easy task. It is a process that takes more than just one day. Our hope is that this program will provide the support and tools needed to help members of the FDNY quit for good."
Since September 11th, 29 percent of smokers in the FDNY have started smoking more, and 23 percent of ex-smokers have started smoking again. This comprehensive, 12-week program, will combine nicotine replacement therapies and other medications with continuous behavior support and regular medical evaluations from smoking cessation experts. This multi-modal approach incorporates proven methods of smoking cessation with the unique needs of rescue workers. Studies have shown that behavioral counseling combined with drug therapy can lead to a near 30 percent quit rate.
"I want to quit smoking and I have for a long time," said Martin Merrick, Fire Department City of New York. "I think this program will provide me with the support I need to beat my cigarette cravings one at a time."
Participants will also have access to a new, interactive, personalized e-mail-based support program called Nicotrol Helping Hand, that provides smokers with the education, motivation and advice they need while trying to quit. The program delivers personalized information and quit tips and enlists the support of friends and family members by educating them on support roles throughout the cessation process.
"As chest specialists, we recognize the importance of smoking cessation," said Diane E. Stover, MD, FCCP, chief of pulmonology medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and president-elect of The CHEST Foundation. "We hope that this will encourage the 50 million smokers in the United States to quit smoking. We also hope that these brave men and women will act as role models and convince our children to not start smoking."