At the beginning of November, Nancy Peterson celebrated two years of not smoking, a milestone in her journey to rid herself of the habit she picked up as a teenager. Nancy is not only kicking the addiction for herself, but also for her friends, family and especially her granddaughter.

“(In 2017,) my daughter was going to have a baby,” Nancy said. “I thought, ‘Well, that would be a nice gift for my granddaughter,’ so that’s what I did.”

Nancy graduated from Sauk Centre High School in 1986. Nancy’s smoking habit started when she was 16, at a time when smoking in high school was common, although she cannot pinpoint exactly who or what influenced her.

“I think I was more an occasional smoker than a chain smoker,” Nancy said. “I smoked mostly about half a pack a day.”

The habit continued for 33 years. Nancy tried quitting but never kept the resolution beyond a couple months. She often developed bronchitis as a side effect from cigarette use.

Then Nancy’s daughter, Chelsea Faulkner, became pregnant with her first child, Layla. Chelsea was due in November 2017. Nancy renewed her resolve to quit smoking, setting Nov. 1, 2017, as the definite start date.

“I smoked right up until the day,” Nancy said. “I kept thinking I didn’t want that day to come, but obviously it did.”

Nancy used nicotine gum to help keep the cravings down, but the first weeks of not smoking were difficult.

“You have to really keep yourself busy,” Nancy said. “You nibble and snack; I think everybody does that when they quit smoking. Driving to work was hard because you like to have a cigarette. You’d need to play with or chew on a straw or something like that. You’re always fidgeting it seems.”

Nancy often considered resorting to smoking, but for the sake of her health and her granddaughter, she stuck with the nicotine gum. Nancy has been progressing from nicotine gum to traditional gum, further distancing herself from cigarettes.

Vaping’s popularity as a smoking alternative was on the rise when Nancy quit, but – to her relief – she was not interested in vaping.

“I thought that was just another habit,” Nancy said.

Nancy’s main avenue of support came from her friend group. A couple friends had already quit smoking when Nancy did as well and more have since followed their example. Nancy also posts regular updates on Facebook, celebrating milestones in her smoke-free journey, and she gets encouragement from that.

Nancy’s husband, Bob, still smokes; while that was a challenge for Nancy when she was a few weeks into quitting, his cigarette use is no longer a distraction.

“I wanted him to quit with me, but if you’re not ready, it’s not going to work,” Nancy said.

Nancy is noticing the positive effects from going smoke-free.

“I have more money, I feel a lot better, I’m not coughing, and I haven’t had bronchitis since I quit,” Nancy said. “It’s a benefit for [my family] because they love it.”

Chelsea and Layla live in Florida, so Nancy needs to fly when she visits them. Not needing to smoke has also benefitted her when she gets on an airplane.

“(Before,) you’re always worried about where you’re going to have that cigarette,” Nancy said.

Nancy’s advice to those who want to quit smoking is to seriously commit to a resolution while remembering the reasons why you’re giving up what you have given up.

“Everybody gets a bad habit,” Nancy said. “Really, I think you’ve got to have the willpower and the mindset if you want to quit. Pick a day and have it in your mind. It’s like losing weight or anything we do.”