Hillary Lennon was just 10 years old when she started smoking cigarettes. By the time she was in her mid-20s, she was puffing two packs a day. Coughing and choking at night scared her into quitting.
“I was motivated by fear,” said Lennon, a nursing student who shared her personal story at the recent Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame ceremony held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell during the University’s health and wellness fair. “I took medication and quit within two weeks. That was five years ago.” The audience burst into applause, congratulating Lennon, who was inducted into the Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame four years ago. At the ceremony, 13 UMass Lowell faculty, staff and students were inducted into this year’s Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame, an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Chancellor Marty Meehan, who worked on anti-tobacco legislation when he was in Congress, stressed the importance of working to stop the influence of tobacco companies on young people. “The strategy of the tobacco companies is to hook them while they’re young,” said Meehan. “When I was in Congress, I called for a criminal investigation against the tobacco companies for lying. The companies considered me their No. 1 enemy. I considered that an honor.”
Motivating Stories Inspire Others to Quit
The Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame celebrates each person’s powerful story of successfully conquering an addiction to tobacco. Megan Lewis, a graduate student in community social psychology, spearheaded the project with Diane Knight, director of the Northeast Tobacco-Free Community Partnership, a program of the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. Lewis recruited the ex-smokers and captured their motivating and compelling stories (pdf). The students, faculty and staff who were inducted into the Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame and shared their personal stories include:
- Frank Andrews, associate dean of the Manning School of Business: “I want to dance with my granddaughter at her wedding.”
- Shawn Barry, project manager in the Center for Family, Work and Community: “I have more energy.”
- Johanna BohanRiley, assistant director of enrollment and technology: “Just don’t stop trying to quit.”
- Ann Bratton, program administrator in physical therapy: “Just don’t give up.”
- Nancy Curran, nursing student, “The monkey on my back is gone.”
- Sue D’Amore, administrative specialist in the labor extension program: “I am proud to be raising my children in a smoke-free home.”
- Kara Evans, junior nursing student: “Do it for yourself.”
- Ashleigh Hillier, assistant professor of psychology: “I love not wasting money on cigarettes."
- Vanessa Kahrman, graduate student in community social psychology: “I feel like my senses have come back.”
- Nancy McKenna, clerical services in graduate admissions: “I no longer smell like cigarettes.”
- Kathleen Rourke, program coordinator in the Manning School of Business: “I am a positive role model for my children and grandchildren.”
- Richard Siegel, professor of psychology: “If quitting smoking is something you want to do, you can do it.”
- Craig Slatin, professor of community health and sustainability: “Take as much support as you can get.”
Lennon encouraged the ex-smokers to continue sharing their powerful stories. “My mother and two cousins quit when they saw that I could do it. Your story is powerful and it makes your quitting stick,” she said.