Courage to Quit Success Stories

Phil goes smoke-free after 35 years

Last April, Phil Martini opened his pack of cigarettes to find he had only four left. He walked up to a convenience store near his home to buy more but was surprised to find it had stopped selling them. He gave himself a choice: he could either walk six more blocks to find somewhere that still sold cigarettes, or he could go home and smoke the last four of his life. Phil chose the latter, and he has been tobacco-free ever since.

While the decision seems easy, it had been 35 years in the making. Phil started smoking when he was 17 because he was surrounded by fellow dancers who did the same. Even during years of teaching gymnastics and aerobics and running children's camps, he continued to smoke, ignoring signs that his physical health was in less than perfect condition. A stay in the hospital for unrelated health reasons couldn't even keep him from the habit.

"By the third day there, I'd discovered how to disconnect my IV and went out to get cigarettes," Phil said. "My partner and friends had begged me for years to quit smoking, but I used it as a way to fight boredom and nothing made me want to stop."

That is, until six blocks stood between him and a pack of cigarettes. Things just fell into place, he said.

"Frankly, I couldn't afford to smoke anymore," Phil said. "I'd been avoiding getting dental work done because I wanted to buy cigarettes instead, and I was even putting off orthopedic surgery because I knew I'd have to quit smoking for it."

When Phil decided to quit, he first chose Chantix®, a non-nicotine prescription medicine used for smoking cessation. After discontinuing the medicine, Phil signed up for Respiratory Health Association's Courage to Quit® program through his employer, the Chicago Park District. Courage to Quit is a tobacco cessation program based upon proven methods for tobacco dependence treatment.

"Without the program, my experience would have been dramatically different," Phil said. "It helped me identify my smoking triggers and plan how to avoid them. I liked getting to talk with others who were also going through the process. I would suggest the program to anyone else who wants to quit smoking."

Since quitting, Phil said living a smoke-free life has been easier than he imagined. He used to take smoke breaks to avoid work, so now he's more productive during the day. Even though he feels irritated sometimes, that is outweighed by the fact that his "smoker's cough" is gone. He has also been able to schedule the doctor appointments necessary to continue to live an active life. Phil has even experienced things he didn't know he was missing out on.

"Recently I attended a Cubs game and really got to enjoy it," Phil said. "I didn't have to worry about when I'd get my next cigarette or missing the rest of the game just to go outside and smoke. I stayed the entire time with my partner."

Courage to Quit can be presented to a group or individuals through multiple formats and flexible content. The program addresses nicotine addiction and withdrawal, tobacco cessation medicines, managing cravings, avoiding triggers and health benefits of quitting. Courage to Quit also offers free quitting resources. To find a Courage to Quit program near you, visit or contact Emily Zadikoff, Respiratory Health Association lung health initiatives manager.

Email Emily Zadikoff or call 312-229-0186.