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Project addresses health risks

Aware of the health risks involved for the participants in the newly-created Oxygen Project through the Scranton Running Company, each applicant will be required to go through specialized medical tests, screenings, and monitoring provided by the American Lung Association, Marywood University’s Human Physiology Lab, the Run SMART Project, and Dr. Joel Laury.

This “brain trust,” Scranton Running Company co-founder Matthew Rosetti said, will provide smokers a “cautious immersion” into the sport that may give them a new addiction, leading to other possible healthy habits.

“Maybe when you quit smoking, you start to run or work out more. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself eating better. You find yourself drinking a little bit less or going out less. It all naturally feeds into one another, whether it’s conscious or not. It’s the rule of unintended consequences, but it’s a good one,” Rosetti said.

The American Lung Association teaches behavioral modification in their programs to avoid “triggers” that may cause a former smoker to start up again, something that nicotine gum or other cessation methods don’t provide, according to ALA program specialist Anthony Delonti.

He warned that once a lung is damaged, however, “the damage is done.”

“There are some reversible things like chronic bronchitis, which a lot of smokers get, that can actually be helped. Things like emphysema can be stemmed, so it doesn’t get to the point where people are just reliant on oxygen all the time. Throughout a smoker’s life, there’s always going to be some emphysema, whether it’s really felt or it’s a shortness of breath,” Delonti said.

Working with a group of other smokers also allows them to relate to one another, SRC co-founder Matthew Byrne added.

“It’s bringing people together with similar struggles and a common goal of getting healthy. People can get hooked on running. It’s been proven that it’s addictive.”

Rosetti also stressed the economic benefits of breaking the habit. If the health dangers don’t “trigger that sense of immediacy,” he believes the numbers will.

“People are spending a shocking amount of money on cigarettes, and the unemployment rate is very high. We’re in a persistent recession, particularly in this region of the country, so to continue to go out and spend money on something like smoking is beyond irresponsible,” Rosetti said.

“That’s $40 or $50 a month, and there’s not just direct costs. There are higher insurance premiums paid if you check that smoker’s box. Maybe more dry cleaning, fire insurance, and greater long-term healthcare costs.”

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