4 Your Health

Laser treatment could help smokers quit

CREATED Aug 19, 2013 - UPDATED: Aug 19, 2013

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RACINE - Merchants has been a staple business in Racine for years. It's a family-owned, interstate moving company. In the past working at Merchants, and many other companies, also meant smoking.

CEO Jim Eastman explains, "It was customary then, even in offices such as ours, for there to be ashtrays at every desk. It's just the way things were."

Jim smoked a pipe for years. In 1990, he was diagnosed with mouth cancer. "Fortunately it was caught in time, dealt with successfully, so I went back then and radically changed my habit, and picked up cigarettes."

Earlier this year, Merchants started an employee wellness program called 'Move Well'. After smoking for 50 years, Jim knew it was time to set an example.

"I saw the handwriting on the wall. It was time to make a change," he admits.

Nothing worked until Jim found Anne Penman Laser Therapy. He beams, "That was my last cigarette. That was 2 1/2 months ago!"

Dr. Anne Penman developed the procedure 20 years ago in Scotland. The laser is applied to specific energy points on the ears, hands, nose, and wrists.

Andrea Hueppe opened Paradise Laser in Racine about a year ago.

"Basically what the laser does is it stimulates your natural endorphins, so that it alleviates the stress and anxiety that comes along with when you quit cold turkey," Hueppe explains.

Hueppe used the technique to quit smoking after 35 years. "I was very scared and smoked my last cigarette 2 minutes beforehand right down to the filter and thought, 'Oh my God do I really want to do this?' I was so nervous."

It worked, and now she's trying to help others quit. People who get the therapy say they hardly feel a thing. The laser acts as a calming agent so that when you quit smoking, the withdrawal symptoms are greatly reduced. However, Hueppe warns you have to want to quit.

"We work with our clients on how to prepare to quit, and set a quit date," she says.

The laser is FDA approved, but the therapies are not - yet. Andrea says, "We do work with the FDA and submit our success rates to them on a monthly basis."

For Jim's daughter Jennifer, all she needs to do is look at her dad to know it works.

"Even the color on his face wasn't as pale and ashen," Jennifer recalls.

Jim hopes his success gives his employees and others hope for a smoke-free future.

"It obviously is something that's not going to work with everyone. That person is going to have to have good incentive as I had to do it," Jim recommends.

The typical treatment is $299 for 3 sessions. The laser can also be used for appetite control and stress. Right now there are about a dozen Anne Penman Laser Centers in the country, and only one in Wisconsin.