The policy made me do it: One man’s path to smoking cessation

One thing Ben Stephen will make clear when you ask him about his decision to quit smoking is that he was very reluctant.

“I like to smoke,” Stephen says. “But when I heard about the new smoke-free policy on campus, I thought, ‘This is going to be a pain.’”

Ben StephenStephen saw a TV commercial for a smoking cessation drug, and decided to ask his doctor about it during his annual well exam. “My doctor was very supportive, almost pushy in fact,” he explains. “My wife was also encouraging me to quit for my sinuses – they were always stuffy in the morning even after I bought a humidifier.”

Covered by insurance

When Stephen discovered that the prescription for the cessation drug would be covered at no cost by his CSU health insurance plan, including no out-of-pocket deductible, he decided to take the pills and see how it went.

“You take the pills and keep smoking,” Stephen explains. “After four days, it made me sick when I smoked and I didn’t want to quit, I almost wanted to prove it wouldn’t work for me, but it did.”

Stephen stopped smoking and said he got really grumpy and had a little trouble sleeping for a couple weeks (a common side effect). After a couple weeks things returned to normal, without the cigarettes.

“By February I was starting to taper the pills, only taking one in the morning instead of twice a day and that helped me sleep,” Stephen says. “By March I was off [the cessation drug]. I decided to quit drinking soda when I quit smoking to help with the weight gain and initially I gained a few pounds but as of this morning, I’m back to the weight I was the day I quit.”

Reasons he quit

It’s been about two months now since Stephen smoked his last cigarette. The cessation drug Stephen took is typically taken for one to three months, and he took it for just under two. He says he still misses cigarettes when he smells his wife smoking them on the patio, but it was worth it to quit for a few important reasons:

  1. Financial – “I look at the account, and I’m not pulling out $4 every day anymore. Saving the money is huge.”
  2. Health – “My sinuses have cleared and my sense of smell is coming back, along with some sense of taste, to a lesser degree.”
  3. Confidence – “I used to smell smoky and now I am more confident sitting next to coworkers in meetings.”
  4. Setting an example – “I’ve been promoted at work and want to set a good example. We can’t get on students for a standard we aren’t following ourselves.”
  5. Productivity – “I used to be really focused on smoke breaks, and now I can work through and stay focused.”

Advice for others

When asked what advice Stephen has for coworkers and students who are thinking about quitting, he had some helpful tips:

  • Take advantage of CSU health insurance and other benefits ( Stephen paid no out-of-pocket expenses for his cessation drug and used his annual well exam to talk to his doctor about quitting.
  • Take an active part in your health. Stephen says he started smoking when he was 13. He didn’t think about the health consequences when he was young, but after he turned 40 he started to feel the impact. Now, he wants to make good decisions for his health.
  • Recognize it’s a personal thing. Stephen recommends finding what matters to you and what will work for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and there are a lot of options out there.
  • Develop new habits. Stephen wants to focus more on his health now and has gotten a Soda Stream to drink more water instead of soda. He and his wife have also developed a fondness for tea.
  • Do the math. Stephen says the money and health issues will add up over time and just aren’t worth it.