Mary West was angry when her employer, West Virginia University Hospitals, adopted a tobacco-free policy last year, but she got over that anger. She turned the tobacco ban into a positive change to improve her health, and is now living tobacco free.

West works as a staff assistant in the high stress area of emergency services, HealthNet Aeromedical Services and the Medical Command Center (MedCom) and relied on cigarettes to get her through the day. It’s a habit that she started early in life.

As a teenage smoker, she listened to her mother’s morning cough, and promised herself that if she ever did the same thing, she would quit. When she woke up coughing in 2008, she went to a doctor who diagnosed her with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After 40 years of smoking, she knew it was time. West said, “I want to see grandchildren!”

The hospital’s 2009 policy provided incentive at the right time.

Another great motivator was the cost of each cigarette—30 cents. She realized she wanted to spend her money on something else, so now she is saving for a new car.

Knowing she would need a lot of support to stop smoking, she asked her husband to quit with her. He had smoked for 45 years, but he joined her in the battle against nicotine. Their insurance company provided nicotine patches free, so they started using those. Then they contacted the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline and followed counselors’ advice to change their routines.

They were used to smoking after dinner. Instead, they started walking their dog together. It’s one way Mary has managed to maintain her weight, despite quitting smoking. Unfortunately, her husband has gained weight – but she says their dog has lost 10 pounds!

“I didn’t think I could quit, but the patch and the competition with my husband helped. My thing is cinnamon candy. I have it everywhere—in the car, at my desk, in my purse. It keeps me from lighting up,” West said.

She and her husband worked hard to remove the cigarette odor. They cleaned out their car, washed all their clothes, steam cleaned carpets and upholstery, and even scrubbed the walls of their home.

Since she stopped smoking, her health has improved significantly. She breathes easier, and the COPD is gone. Colds and the flu don’t last as long. Walking is easier now. West hasn’t smoked in more than 140 days.

West said she is even more productive in her job. “I have more time to work since I don’t take smoke breaks anymore. And, I found out smoking was not really a stress reliever,” she said. “I hope by sharing my story I can help just one person throw those cigarettes away for good.”

West Virginia Tobacco Quitline services, including nicotine replacement therapy and counseling, are being offered free to all employees at the Health Sciences Campus who are West Virginia residents, and their spouses. The Quitline’s hours of operation are: Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday – Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voicemail services are available after hours. Residents can call 1-877-966-8784, or sign up online at

For more information, contact the WVU Healthcare Wellness Program or see


For More Information:
Kim Fetty, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087