TAMPA, Fla., May 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- John Watson was well aware of the facts. Smoking causes cancer and was likely to prematurely end his life. But a 40-year habit is well ingrained, and he could never muster the willpower to quit on his own.
Then he went to a Big Bend Area Health Education Center (AHEC) tobacco cessation class at WellCare of Florida's Tallahassee Welcome Room, a community gathering place that is host to dozens of events each month that are free and open to the public. Watson has now been smoke-free for nearly two months, and in recognition of World No Tobacco Day, wants to encourage others to do the same. With more than 10,000 children in Florida alone becoming daily smokers each year, Watson knows his message is important.
"I always tell kids, 'Don't ever smoke,' " said Watson, 55. "When I was a kid it was the thing to do and everyone did it. The class gave me the right mindset to do what I needed to do. I've told everyone I know about this program. It's been so helpful to me."
In collaboration with Big Bend AHEC, WellCare of Florida hosts monthly tobacco cessation classes at several of its Welcome Rooms in Florida. Community residents can meet with Big Bend AHEC tobacco treatment specialists, obtain free smoking cessation aids, and touch base regularly for support.
The classes are just one way that WellCare of Florida, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), assists its members in quitting tobacco. In addition to classes, members are educated about the risks of smoking, encouraged to quit, and provided with numerous cessation aids, from gum and lozenges to nicotine patches and other prescription medicines that have proven effective.
"The statistics are sobering," said Dr. Al Smith, WellCare of Florida's senior medical director. "In Florida, the annual health care cost directly caused by smoking is $8.64 billion, with $1.51 million in Medicaid costs. One of the most important things we can do for our health and those who live with and around us is to quit smoking."
Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined — and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes — such as fires and smokeless tobacco use. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in six American adults currently smokes cigarettes, a habit that has been found to reduce life expectancy by an average of 14.5 years for women and 13.2 years for men.
It's never too late to quit. Consider these facts from the U.S. Surgeon General:
- 12 hours after quitting, a new non-smoker's carbon monoxide blood level returns to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases.
- 1-9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decreases and lungs start to regain normal function.
- 1 year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
- 5 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half, and cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker.
Since 2007, Big Bend AHEC's tobacco cessation program has strived to help participants, like John, live a tobacco-free lifestyle in Tallahassee and throughout their 14-county region. Program facilitators go through university training to become tobacco treatment specialists, which gives them the tools to guide people along their quit journey.
For more information about classes and locations, call Big Bend AHEC at (850) 224-9340. For more information about events and activities at WellCare of Florida's Welcome Rooms, call (850) 523-4300.
As of March 31, 2016, WellCare serves approximately 772,000 Medicaid members, 57,000 Florida Healthy Kids members, 92,000 Medicare Advantage members, and 31,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Florida.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. The company serves approximately 3.7 million members nationwide as of March 31, 2016. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wellcare-recognizes-world-no-tobacco-day-on-may-31-2016-300272501.html
SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.