Ray McKelligott took two drags of a “snipe” cigarette after months of not smoking, and moments later was in the hospital, his heart failing. It was a nearly impossible habit to kick after almost 30 years puffing two packs a day.
“Skull and crossbones, baby,” he said. “Two drags—boom, I was gone. That’s how deadly cigarettes are.”
McKelligott, who’s also been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, now maintains the strength to stay healthy by encouraging others who desire to quit, serving as a peer advocate at Butte County Behavioral Health’s The Hub in Paradise and facilitating a smoking cessation group held noon-1 p.m. every Thursday.
Health professionals have found programs led by former smokers-turned-advocates to be a vital part of an effort to decrease smoking rates among disenfranchised populations, including those with mental illness.