Kicking the habit is its own reward |

Kicking the habit is its own reward

John Colson

This is the day of reckoning for six local cigarette smokers who vowed to kick the habit two months ago.

Today is the day when those six will learn which of them wins a pot of money, and who must be consoled simply by the fact that they achieved their goal.

Some time today, a name will be pulled out of a hat, determining the lucky winner of $87.50 – half of the amount ponied up by locals who needed a little incentive in their effort to quit smoking.

The Aspen Times has been the co-sponsor of a smoking cessation challenge issued by Aspen City Attorney John Worcester as part of the Great American Smokeout of 1999, on Nov. 19, 1999.

Worcester, a smoker since he was 16, decided last fall to quit – the second time he has made the decision. He was up to about a pack a day, and to bolster his resolve he offered the following challenge to his fellow Aspenites: If you want to quit smoking, put your money where your cigarettes go.

The Worcester Challenge was to deposit $25 in a pool held at the Times office, and any participant still not smoking at the end of 60 days would be eligible for a drawing for half the total amount in the pool. The rest will be donated to the American Lung Association.

As an added incentive for his own effort, Worcester said he would match the amount in the pool if he failed to make it the whole 60 days without smoking.

Seven people entered the Challenge, including Worcester, bringing the total to $185.

Most of those in the pool, contacted recently by the Times, have kept to their promise to give up cigarettes.

“I’m still clean,” declared Worcester.

Another successful quitter is John Pruett of Basalt, who said this week, “I was helped along by a bad case of the flu.”

As for the challenge, he said, “It was a pretty good motivator.”

He said that on several occasions he felt the familiar tug of his nicotine addiction calling to him, but refused to succumb because he made the pledge.

“Hopefully, I’ll stay quit,” he concluded.

Of the seven challengers, at least two have not been able to maintain their commitments to quit.

One of the hopefuls admitted back in December that she has not been entirely faithful to the challenge, conceding, “I might have had a few puffs.” But she said then that she had gone back on the wagon and was determined to quit, so Worcester said she should be kept in the pool until the end and contacted again.

Unfortunately, when contacted this week, she admitted, “I have smoked. I don’t really feel like a smoker, but if the rule is that I can’t have had any cigarettes, then I guess I’m out.”

Another, who said she has only been smoking for one year, said that nevertheless she was unable to meet her goal.

“It’s much, much better than it used to be, and that’s a good thing,” she said.

Devin Mills of Aspen, on the other hand, said triumphantly in December that he had not smoked since Nov. 18 and had no plans to do so.

“I think it’s helped me quit, or helped me stay quit, because I want the money,” he said frankly. And when contacted this week, Mills said, “I’m still quit!”

Although some of the remaining entrants to Worcester’s Challenge could not be reached by press time on Monday, the plan is for all challengers to be contacted and polled as to their smoking status before the drawing is held.

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