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by Healthe at Cerner
Published on October 13, 2017

These days, mornings are a lot different for El Paul Pomerantz.

Reflecting on stories from his tobacco smoking days, El Paul recalls, “I used to wake up in the morning wanting to cough up a lung. My kids would always ask me if I was OK.”

For the last 31 years, El Paul smoked a pack of cigarettes every day. The extremely addicting habit was negatively affecting his health and his family, who kept asking him to quit.

“I would have shortness of breath when trying to run or pretty much after doing anything. But the biggest thing as a smoker that you don’t really realize until you quit, is how badly you smell like an old dirty cigarette; you literally lose your sense of smell,” El Paul said.

So what was the turning point for El Paul? It was a combination of a benefits surcharge, his family and of course, his health.

During 2016 benefits annual enrollment, Cerner benefits issued a tobacco surcharge notice. Any individual signing up for the health plan who uses tobacco will incur a surcharge on the health plan premiums if he or she did not elect to participate in an approved tobacco cessation course. Approved courses are available either through the Healthe Clinic or through New Directions Behavioral Health.

“I noted the surcharge for tobacco users and decided that I didn’t want to have to pay for my smoking habits. So when signing up, I didn’t know not smoking wasn’t an option. I pretty much had it set in my head that I was going to quit smoking,” El Paul said.

With this newfound motivation, El Paul signed up for the on-site tobacco cessation sessions offered through the Healthe Clinic.

“The cessation program was awesome! If that opportunity hadn’t surfaced from my benefits enrollment, I probably wouldn’t have quit,” El Paul admits.

With a supportive and encouraging instructor, El Paul’s tobacco cessation sessions were interactive and collaborative. The instructor followed up after sessions and made sure everyone was doing their homework. “Going to the sessions and hearing other people share their stories and what they were going through made my experience much more valuable, and I felt motivated and supported by the leader of the sessions,” El Paul mentioned.

But as with any habit, breaking up is hard to do. The most challenging times were the hours during the day in which El Paul would normally light a cigarette. “I had to schedule meetings over the normal times I would typically go have a cigarette,” he said. “The biggest challenge for me was not being able to smoke in my car.”

With the support he found through the tobacco cessation program and on-going encouragement from his family, El Paul has been tobacco free since January 5, 2016. The benefits of not smoking have been plentiful for him, including not having to pay a tobacco surcharge. “I save nearly $140 a month just on cigarette cost. I eat a lot healthier now and can actually taste food. My cardio is so much better and I can run a 5k without coughing up a lung. I’m also told I don’t smell like a dirty cigarette anymore!”

Something El Paul would want other tobacco users to know is that if you think tobacco may not affect you now, it will down the road. Stick around and stay healthy for your family and friends.

According to the World Health Organization, “Tobacco is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including lung, cardiovascular, and cancer, yet its prevalence remains around the world.”

In 2010, all of our campuses become 100 percent tobacco-free. This is just another effort in reinforcing our commitment to healthy lifestyles and a cleaner environment for associates. Because we believe in joint accountability, we wanted to provide the appropriate resources and tools for associates who use tobacco to feel empowered and finally able to quit.