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‘Grandpa, won’t you quit?’

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Tobacco Free program helps when it's time 

Dennis Higgin, Eleva Dennis Higgin, Eleva

​Dennis Higgin will never again take yard work for granted. It's the reason he finally stopped smoking. And with the help of Security Health Plan's Tobacco Free program, he has stayed smoke-free for more than a year.

It's also allowed him to continue being role a model for his children and grandchildren. Grandpa still has some lessons to teach.

"It was spring and I was trying to clean up some oak fall. I raked for five minutes, but I was so out of breath, so I had to rest for 15 minutes," said Higgin, a carpenter who lives in Eleva, Trempealeau County. "I raked five more minutes and then had to rest for 30. Well, it just disgusted me."

Higgin went inside his home, turned to a Security Health Plan newsletter that featured information about Tobacco Free, and connected with Health Educator Dave Scheuer.

"I don't know if it was my attitude or his, but I can't say enough about how Dave got me thinking the right way," he said. "We talked every week and went through the workbook, and it was so helpful."

Tobacco Free, available at no additional cost to all health plan members, is a confidential program that offers support in developing a personal success plan for quitting tobacco use.

The sessions are tailored to the individual member's needs. At times convenient for them, participants schedule three to five educational phone sessions with a trained health coach such as Scheuer.

"The first step is going through their history of tobacco use. Why did they start, and why do they want to quit, and what are the triggers that lead to their tobacco use," Scheuer said. "Together we come up with a plan to deal with those triggers – whether it's driving in the car or handling a stressful situation at home or work."

The key to smoking cessation is motivation not blame, Scheuer added. The word relapse is never used in their discussion. "We'll talk about a 'bump' or a 'slip,' but we understand that the average tobacco user makes six or seven quit attempts," he said. "If someone hits a bump, we talk about how we can avoid that trigger the next time."

The fact is that one success story can lead to another. Two weeks after Higgin stopped smoking, so did his grown son. Both have been smoke-free for more than a year. And in doing so, they've also sent a message to the youngest members of their family.

Sometimes the need to make a lifestyle change comes at a physician's urging, sometimes it's a nagging voice inside their head, and sometimes it's the tiny voices of children and grandchildren.

"The world is getting unfriendly for smokers and it's a palpable feeling," said Higgin. "There's lots of finger wagging, but the ultimate finger wagging comes from a wee voice that says: 'Grandpa won't you quit?'"

That and a yard that needs raking.

 The Great American Smokeout is Nov. 17. But why wait?

​Security Health Plan would like to help you stop smoking now. You can contact our Tobacco Free program at 1-800-472-2363. Or visit our website at

Security Health Plan is a health maintenance organization sponsored by Marshfield Clinic tha​t serves more than 200,000 residents in 32 counties of northern, western and central Wisconsin.