More than 18 percent of New York adults are smokers, according to the American Heart Association, but Wednesday a local mother who has smoked since her teen years put her last pack down.
Now nine-months-old, Trisha Santiago's twin boys struggled for air in the first months of their lives, diagnosed with lung disease as a result of being born close to 17-weeks premature. Caring for her sons helped Santiago to realize the damage smoking is causing her own lungs.
"I wish for them never to watch me have to make that struggle. No family member should ever have to watch their loved one fight for that breath, and I'm taking the first step to avoid my children from watching that," Santiago said.
Santiago said she quit smoking successfully for 9 months during her pregnancy, but the stress of her babies suffering from disease led her to pick the pack up again.
Tressa Rossi has been smoke free for 13 months is part of Santiago's support group, saying, "Many people use it as a form of stress management, that you need the outside supports to assist you."
But now that her sons are getting healthier, she says it's her turn.
"Seeing my son crawl up to the door to wait for me to come back in was the final blow, time to quit," she said. "Just seeing your kid waiting for you and you're taking the time to have a cigarette instead."
Wednesday, Santiago signified becoming a non-smoker by taking part in the "trade a pack for a pin" initiative with the American Heart Association.
"It feels great to have the support of everybody around me, and know that I can finally put them down and start setting an example and living better. It feels wonderful," she said.
Rossi says the support is necessary, "The supports get you through, to talk you
through not picking up the cigarette."
If you're looking for ways to quit smoking, here are 5 recommended ways you can get help and support:
1. Talk to your doctor or health care provider
2. Call the New York State smokers quit-line (1-866-ny-quits)
3. Find help online (nysmokefree.com)
4. Join a support group
5. Use FDA approved medications to curb cravings