For those that want to kick that smoking habit, free virtual smoking cessation classes are being offered by the Corry Blue Zones Project, partnered with the the Erie County Department of Health.

On Tuesdays from Feb. 23 to March 30, between 6 and 7 p.m., those looking to stop smoking can attend virtual classes to help quit with the guidance of smoking cessation facilitators and the support of fellow participants.

Anyone can sign up to participate by emailing Ashley Lawson, Corry Blue Zones Project policy advocate and smoking cessation facilitator, at or by calling 814-246-7987. Sign-ups will be taken through the first week of February.

There are four spots remaining for this first virtual class offering.

After signing up, participants will be mailed a workbook and informational packets.

They will also receive a free supply of nicotine replacement therapy aides and class facilitators will work with each person to see which one might work best for them, Lawson said.

"Early on in the class we’ll talk about how the smoking/vaping habit forms and what triggers different people to smoke," Lawson said. "We’ll spend a few weeks tracking how much each person is smoking and how they’re feeling at the time of the craving."

The last month is spent identifying each person's "why" for quitting and what he or she can do when feeling an urge to smoke, Lawson said.

"We’ll talk through the psychology of quitting and how they might feel physically," Lawson said. "We try to be open and honest with the participants, because it is hard, but people who join a class are significantly more likely to quit."

In-person classes were offered in January and February 2020 but pandemic restrictions created a need to transition to virtual classes.

Lawson, as well as Corry resident Lori Rater, attended training through the CDC and federal health departments to become smoking cessation facilitators. They both were facilitators for the first in-person classes.

Lawson said feedback from participants included how glad the people were to have the support of classmates for when quitting got rough.

"The reason I wanted to be a part of this program is because I was a former 30-year smoker and took a similar class back in 2010. I can say I’ve never looked back and have never wanted another cigarette," Rater said.

The first round of classes had six participants.

The key, Rater said, is to be ready, willing and able to quit.

"It takes most people a number of attempts to quit and to stay quit for good, but the odds of success increase each time," Lawson said. "No one is here to judge you, we’re all in it together and want to help."

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