How City of Hope helped one longtime smoker finally quit smoking

November 17, 2016 | by City of Hope


breakthroughs - Great American Smokeout 2016 Joe Coussa, left, credits City of Hope's Smoking Cessation Group, which is led by Brian Tiep, M.D., right, with helping him to quit smoking.


More than two years ago, a strange, wheezing sound woke up Joe Coussa in the middle of the night.

“I was scared,” Coussa, then 64, said. “I didn’t really know where that sound was coming from. And then I realized it was coming from me because I was so congested.”

Back then, Coussa was also a heavy smoker – he smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day. He would frequently catch colds, which often turned into bronchitis.

That experience was a wake-up call for Coussa. He decided that night he would give up a smoking, and he knew it wouldn’t be easy.

The La Verne, California, resident had quit in 1992, but started smoking again three years later. He tried again and it worked for a few years.

But by summer of 2014, he was smoking again.

City of Hope’s Smoking Cessation Group is what finally helped him stop smoking in January 2015.

“Don’t try to go at it alone,” said Coussa, who took varenicline, a smoking cessation medicine, to help him quit and worked closely with City of Hope smoking cessation experts. “You need support and the group is here to help you. We are all friends here and want to see you succeed.”

Today is the Great American Smokeout – a nationwide event aimed at encouraging smokers to quit that’s sponsored by the American Cancer Society. City of Hope medical professionals will be stationed at the Geri & Richard Brawerman Ambulatory Care Center, the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and other locations at the Duarte campus to distribute materials to help smokers quit.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and the second most common cancer, according to Brian Tiep, M.D., director of pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation at City of Hope. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of many cancers and chronic disease.

Tiep, who helped Coussa kick the addiction, shares these tips to help people who are trying to quit smoking.

  • Seek help. The first step is to seek medical help. Talk to your doctor about finding a smoking cessation program such as City of Hope’s or other support groups that include medical professionals who specialize in helping people quit smoking.
  • Be passionate. “It is important to be passionate about your goal,” Tiep said. Quitting is something that should occupy your mind. Stay focused to your commitment to quitting for yourself and your family as well.
  • Consider medications and nicotine replacement therapies. “Taking the appropriate medications is an extremely important tool when trying to quit smoking,” Tiep said. Medications, such as bupropion and varenicline, two nicotine replacement therapies, help manage withdrawal symptoms, which can be very painful, both emotionally and physically.
  • Expect relapse. Kicking the habit is hard. And it may take multiple tries to finally quit for good. In fact, most people who have successfully quit tried many times before achieving success, Tiep said. So don’t be too hard on yourself when you find yourself relapsing; instead, remind yourself that each try brings you one step closer to achieving your goal. Be patient, but persistent.
  • Be patient. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and quitting doesn't happen in a day either. Most smokers have years of smoking under their belts before they quit. Expect a slow and steady progress. It takes time and effort to quit smoking for good.
  • Get screened for lung cancer. Current or former smokers can now be screened for early detection of lung cancer using low-dose CT scan. Individuals who are between the ages of 55 to 77, and who have smoked a pack per day for 30 years and still smoke, as well as those who have quit within the past 15 years, qualify for the screenings. Medicare and most health insurance plans cover these plans. You may qualify for a lung cancer screening if you are outside of these criteria or have additional risk factors.


Learn more about our lung cancer treatments and programs. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.



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