Where there is a will, there is a way with tobacco cessation.

Shannon and Shellie
Written by Lindsey Morris

Shellie Smitley started to experiment with smoking when she was nine years old.

“Way back in the late 70s when you could go to the gas station with a note from your parents and buy a pack of cigarettes. So, me and my friends thought we were smart, we forged notes from our parents to go get the cigarettes then went out to the woods and smoke some cigarettes and be cool.”

By 17, Smitley was smoking whenever she could behind her parents’ backs, but as she grew older, she began to smoke more regularly, about a pack per day, sometimes more than that depending on her anxiety.

Since the 1960s cigarette smoking rates have fallen with adults from 42% to 12% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  While the fall in numbers is great for the health of our nation, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. It accounts for more than 480,000 deaths each year.

Smoking causes a vast number of diseases and disabilities, such as heart diseases, strokes, and most notably, cancer. The first cancer that probably comes to mind when you think of smoking is lung cancer, which claims the most lives of both men and women in the United States. You might also think of cancers related to mouth and throat areas, but the truth is that smoking affects the entire body. Smoking is the leading cause of cancer and can cause cancer in your liver, kidneys, bladder, and colon, just to name a few.

“Ten family members smoked cigarettes, five of them quit during their lifetime. Those five did not get diagnosed with lung cancer. All five relatives who didn’t quit smoking suffered from lung cancer and either died of it or are in treatment right now,” Smitley said when asked about her experience with lung cancer.

One of those relatives who passed from lung cancer was Smitley’s sister, Shannon, who smoked about a pack a day and would be considered a heavy smoker by today’s standards but is  common for those in her age group. Shannon also dealt with anxiety, which makes quitting much more challenging.



“My sister suffered from anxiety, and I think there are a lot of people with anxiety who smoke and who experience a much more difficult process of quitting smoking,” Smitley says when asked about the difficulty that comes along with attempting to quit.

According to the American Lung Association, lifetime smoking rates are higher in patients who suffer from mental disorders compared to those who do not. When the body goes through nicotine withdrawal during an attempt to quit, it can be difficult to manage the stress and anxiety that comes with it, so many find themselves reaching for another cigarette to satisfy the craving.

“It took me seven attempts to quit smoking to be successful at quitting.”

At first, Smitley attempted to quit cold turkey and replace smoking with exercising. After a month she had put on 8lbs and began smoking again. She then tried patches and when those failed, she joined a tobacco cessation program and was prescribed Chantix.  The program and medication worked for about three months before Smitley underwent a heavily stressful situation and started smoking again. When she tried Chantix again, it no longer worked for her, and nor did the lozenges she tried afterwards.

“I gave up on quitting smoking. I figured I was somebody that just couldn’t quit.”

Smitley believed that until one day her nicotine cravings took her to a gas station to buy a new pack of cigarettes. While she normally parked far away from others, it was a cold day, so she pulled up to a spot in the front. Before she could adjust her parking or get out of her car, another car pulled up right next to her, preventing her from moving her car or opening her door to get out. A woman got out of the car and walked into the store.

Smitley decided to wait for the woman to finish and leave, not wanting to risk damaging either of their vehicles in an attempt to get out or adjust her parking job. However, when the woman left the store, she stood outside and talked instead of getting in her car and leaving. After waiting a few minutes more, Smitley decided to roll down her window and ask the woman if she could move her car. The situation quickly escalated when the woman attempted to punch Smitley through her window.

“When I got home, I was mad, but I wasn’t mad at her, and I wasn’t mad at my driving abilities. I was mad because I knew if I didn’t smoke cigarettes, I would have never been at that gas station that day,” Smitley said. “And that’s what really prompted me to quit because I sat and I thought about if cigarettes are taking me places that I don’t want to be, then it’s probably keeping me from places that I do.”

After multiple attempts at quitting, Smitley decided to give it another try. This time she used nicotine gum, and it worked.

“I really think the moral of this story is that where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

If you or a loved one struggle with quitting tobacco or are not sure where to start, check out Augusta University’s Tobacco Cessation Program. The program is open to the general public and can help you get on the road to quitting. You can also email them at or call at 706-721-0456.

We also encourage those who have smoked at any point in their lives to take charge of their lung health and to visit our website to learn about your screening and treatment options.