'Dancing with the Stars' pro Mark Ballas encourages others to quit smoking during 'SELFtember'

Mark Ballas On 'DWTS' Training Regimen: 'Nothing Will Prepare You For This'
Mark Ballas On 'DWTS' Training Regimen: 'Nothing Will Prepare You For This'

By Lisa Bonarrigo

'Dancing with the Stars' is back with Season 21 in full swing, and professional dancer Mark Ballas is ready to bring even more creativity to the ballroom this time around. Watching the pro dance each season, you may never guess that his smoking habit caused him to lose stamina pretty easily just a few years ago.

Now he's making a point to help smokers begin their journey to a healthier life the way he did when he decided to quit by partnering with Nicorette® and NicoDerm® CQ® to turn September into SELFtember, a time when smokers can begin their journey to a smoke-free lifestyle. We caught up with the dancing pro to learn more about the SELFtember campaign, his own personal journey to quit smoking and what he's looking forward to on this season of 'Dancing with the Stars.'

SEE ALSO: 'Dancing with the Stars' kicks off Season 21: See which couples have an early lead!

The moment he decided to kick the habit
When Mark was growing up in England, he was surrounded by smokers, including his mother, grandmother, uncle and school friends. Because it was very accessible to him, he fell into the habit easily. "When you're young, you feel invincible," Mark shares. "You know the warnings, you know it's not good for you, you know it can affect you, but you kind of think it's not [going to] catch you."

Mark had been smoking on and off for about 11 years when he was in a dancing class and noticed a change. "I was struggling to breathe. I was coughing, wheezing and I wasn't getting through something that would typically be a breeze for me. That was the moment that I [thought], 'I need to kick this now.'"

The dancing pro admits that he wanted to kick the habit before he started making some big life decisions, like getting married and raising a family. "I wanted to cut it out before I hit my 30s, before I have kids [and get] married ... I don't want my kids growing up around that," Mark shares. "That's a big part of it ... I wanted to cut it out before I go into that next chapter and phase of my life."

See photos of 'Dancing with the Stars' pro Mark Ballas over the years:

Getting the help he needed to quit
Mark didn't have an easy time quitting in the beginning. "It takes a lot of strength and willpower," he says. "I tried cold turkey in the past. I had success, but then ultimately kept coming back to it, because there's so much more to the habit than people realize. It's not just the nicotine or the actual cigarette. It's also the physicality of [it] -- ripping off the seam, opening the box, pulling out the foil, flicking open the cigarette, putting it in your mouth, lighting it –- you're addicted to that as much as you are to the nicotine."

He needed something to give him an extra push, and that's how he stumbled across NicoDerm® and its products. "I was very interested in a company and brand that were advocating to help people quit and to find a healthier lifestyle," he says. He used the NicoDerm® CQ® patch, putting it on every morning and taking it off before bed. "It worked for me. It really helped. They have amazing online support," he shares.

Mark partnered with the company for the 'What's Your Why?' campaign over the summer, and now he's gearing up for the SELFtember campaign. "This is a time of year [when] people are making changes," Mark says. "[They're] coming out of summer vacation and traveling and eating whatever they want, and now it's back to work and back to school and keeping your body in check and feeling healthier. So this is a really good time to start new and fresh and [it's] fun for people to get involved with ... The product worked for me. It helped me [quit smoking], and I feel way better for it. I feel healthier, I feel cleaner, I'm dancing better, I'm not losing stamina and I'm saving money –- and I don't stink!"

Advice for others who want get healthy
Part of the reason Mark got involved with the SELFtember campaign is because of the support Nicorette® and NicoDerm® CQ® provide. "You have the product [and] you have other people that are doing the same thing," he says. "There's online support, and that's the part that I found so intriguing ... You can talk to other people that are in the same boat, that are experiencing the same thing, and you realize you're not alone."

Mark points out that it can feel very isolating to quit smoking, and you may feel like you're the only one going through the struggle and no one understands. "There [are] so many people out there going through the exact same thing, [with the] same questions, trying to accomplish the exact same goal that you are," he says. "That's what's great about the 'What's Your Why?' campaign and the SELFtember campaign. It just keeps people united and keeps people strong."

Looking forward to 'Dancing With the Stars'
Mark took this past summer off, which was the first summer he didn't dance in "quite a while." Until rehearsals began for Season 21 of 'Dancing with the Stars,' he hadn't danced since the finale of the last season of the show. "It was nice to just kind of recharge, because I very much needed that time, and I'm very much looking forward to coming into this season open-minded, clear-minded and ready to be creative and to be inspired again," Mark says. "I think it's going to be a good one!"

Check out the 'Dancing with the Stars' Season 21 cast:

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Originally published