Mayo opens Center for Tobacco-Free Living

By Jeff Hansel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Former Republican state Sen. Nancy Brataas smiled as she took the microphone.

"I am a graduate of this wonderful, wonderful program. It is amazing that I am still with you," she told about 40 people attending the ribbon cutting for the new Center for Tobacco-Free Living at Mayo Clinic, a new partner for Mayo’s Nicotine Dependence Center.

The offshoot, housed next to the Mayo Pulmonary Lung Center, offers hope for smokers who want to quit, said Dr. Michael Burke. Patients will find a welcoming atmosphere where they can learn about nicotine dependence in a judgment-free environment.


"We spend so much time treating illness. Now it’s time to start thinking about preventing it," said Dr. Glenn Forbes, chief executive officer of Mayo in Rochester.

The center offers interactive media, illustrations, computer work stations and counselors to help people who want to quit.

Brataas, who will turn 81 in January, said she tried every smoking-cessation program she could find, including acupuncture and hypnosis without success.

"I always said I needed to be tied into a hospital bed. Now they didn’t tie me, but they did lock the doors — and that is absolutely necessary," she said.

If it weren’t for the residential treatment program, Brataas said, "I would be dead."

Dr. Denis Cortese, Mayo’s CEO, said Dr. Richard Hurt, who originally proposed that the clinic treat nicotine dependence, had an uphill battle to get his effort started 20 years ago.

"He persevered, and he launched the program, and here we are today," Cortese said.

"I don’t think any of us imagined it was going to turn out quite like this," Hurt said as nicotine-dependent zebra fish swam in a tank nearby. Burke said the fish exhibit two genes that are also present in humans. Some fish exposed to nicotine show nicotine dependence right away. The others don’t.


The fish demonstrate that nicotine dependence is genetically based, which explains why some humans can stop smoking easily while others, like Brataas , become physically and psychologically controlled by the drug.

Burke said research demonstrates people are more likely to succeed in quitting a tobacco habit in direct proportion to the time spent in counseling.

Hurt said internal tobacco company documents obtained because of the Minnesota Tobacco Settlement show that tobacco companies purposely designed cigarettes to be addictive. So, Hurt said, don’t be embarrassed if you’re struggling to quit.

"Keep at it until you get the right treatment," he said.


Mayo Clinic eight-day residential treatment program

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