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Clean Air, a Healthier You

Clean Air, a Healthier You

The UConn Health Centerís campus will be 100 percent smoke-free starting November 18. Learn more >

UConn Health Center Smoking Cessation Studies

Feature Story

Health Center Today, July 19, 2010

Winning by Quitting

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of Bonnie Johnson

Standing on the second-floor balcony where she used to smoke, Bonnie Johnson shows a photo of herself parasailing while vacationing in the Virgin Islands in 2007. She paid for the trip with the money she saved from not buying cigarettes for a year.

Some employees will have some adjusting to do when the Health Center becomes a smoke-free campus November 18.

Bonnie Johnson wonít be one of them.

Johnson was a medical assistant at the Health Center when she got serious about quitting smoking after nearly 25 years.

"I think working in direct patient care, with pulmonary patients, made a difference," Johnson says. "That, and pressure from my family."

It was a pack-a-day habit.

"Iíd smoke on the drive in, have one at 10 [a.m.], three at lunch, one at 2 [p.m.], on the drive back, and then at home," Johnson says.

When she enrolled in one of Dr. Cheryl Onckenís smoking cessation studies five years ago, she made a point of letting others know.

"Having support is very important," Johnson says. "I didnít want to fail. I recommend really telling everybody, because it forces you to be accountable by having to face them if you fail."

Johnson says she had "a few cigarettes" during "the first week or two" of the study, but she chose a quit date, and before long, the taste of cigarettes no longer appealed to her. As a study participant she received behavioral counseling and the medication varenicline (known by the trade name Chantix), which has been shown to make the flavor of cigarettes repulsive.

"For me it was the Chantix," Johnson says. "My advice? Take that feeling that it tastes gross and run with it. Let that be the catalyst to make you quit."

Johnson, now a systems coordinator in the Calhoun Cardiology Center, hopes to inspire others to kick the habit as the Health Center becomes a 100 percent smoke-free campus November 18. Learn more at

"I kept a good idea of how much money I saved from quitting smoking and made a point to spend that amount on a reward for myself after the first year," Johnson says. "I went on a Caribbean vacation that cost less than my annual cigarette expense Ė I spent approximately $2,000 on smokes a year!"