Wilma can't point to a specific reason she started smoking cigarettes. Her siblings smoked, and by her early teens she was sneaking cigarettes from her sister — beginning an addiction that would last 30 years. In her mid-forties, Wilma decided that she needed to stop smoking.
"I realized I was too young to feel this bad and too old to be messing around with smoking anymore," she says. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit in the past, Wilma quit for good in 2007. She got advice from her doctor and used a prescription to help. She also got support through an online program. She threw out her lighters and ashtrays and started exercising more.
Today, at 49, she enjoys activities — and a lifestyle — she never dreamed of as a smoker. She is training as a yoga instructor (yoga was one of the exercises that helped her cope with nicotine withdrawal) and for a half marathon. She also eats healthier foods than she did when she smoked.
"Once you quit, it opens up so many possibilities that you don't see when you are caught up in the addiction," Wilma says. "I'll also admit, as a woman, vanity was part of my motivation to quit, too. I want to look as young as I can for as long as I can — and smoking just wasn't going to help."
Wilma hopes her story can inspire others to quit and is proud to be a part of the Tips From Former Smokers campaign. "I want to be an inspiration for others to quit smoking, even if it's just one person," she says. "It's your health."
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- CDC/Office on Smoking and Health
4770 Buford Highway
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717