Free program to help adult users quit tobacco

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COLUMBIA - Ellis Fischel Cancer Center offers a free 10-week program to help adults who smoke, chew or use tobacco in any form kick their habits.

The program goes from Aug. 10 through Oct. 5, and the class will meet every other Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the center. 

Outreach Coordinator for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Angela Winterbower, said the class can hold about 20 people, and there are still spots available.

According to a release from the center, each year in Missouri, there are nearly 10,000 deaths from tobacco-related illnesses, including lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, and exposure to secondhand smoke causes more than 1,100 additional deaths.

Winterbower said the center wants to “tackle those statistics” and “bring those numbers down” by providing tobacco users with services like personalized quit plans and instruction from two facilitators who’re trained in tobacco cessation programming.

“They have particular curriculum that they deliver and there’s a manual they’ll go through with each participant during the group meetings,” she said.

Winterbower said free nicotine-replacement therapy patches will also be up for grabs. 

“It delivers certain milligrams of nicotine replacement so that you can start weaning off of cigarettes or chewing tobacco, whatever form of tobacco that you’re using,” she said.

She said using the patches is optional.

“Some people who go through the program decide not to use them,” she said. “They just wanna go on their own and try not to use those patches, but they’re there if you need them and wanna use them.”

Winterbower said peer support is a big part of the program, as everyone in the group “just acts like a cheerleader for one another.”

“When you do have those weeks that are a little bit tougher than others, you’re encouraging and supporting each other along the way,” she said.

The end result the program hopes to see will be either significant decrease in tobacco use or “they will quit it altogether,” Winterbower said.

This is the third time the center organizes the program since last fall.

“We just put a success story on social media about two sisters who went through the program,” Winterbower said. “One of them went through our very first offering of the program last fall. She saw so much success with it and believed in the program so much that she let her sister know about it.”

Winterbower said they are not the only success the program has.

“Individuals who were smokers for long periods of time, 30 plus years of smoking, who are now nonsmokers,” she said.

She said the center does follow up periodically with the participants.

“Many of them are still continuing to do well,” she said. “We do see some who, have fallen back into the habit, and that’s part of it.”

Winterbower said any strides the participants make forward matter, and they are not limited to only go through the program once.

“If they wanna come through this program twice, if they wanna come through it five times, six times, seven times—however many times it takes them to go through the program and be successful in their own eyes, in their own definition of success, we invite them to join us,” she said.

According to Winterbower, the MU Wellness Resource Center has been a partner sponsor since the beginning, and it pays for the university employees’ therapies.  

She said anyone coming to the class does not need to prepare anything.

"Do they need to quit smoking, or try to quit smoking, or try to quit using tobacco before they come? The answer is 'no.' We certainly welcome any efforts they would make before they attend the class, but we don’t expect them to do anything. We’re here to help them. They just need to show up, sit back, relax,” she said. 

The center encourages people to register in advance by contacting Winterbower at or (573) 884-2049.