The American Cancer Society marks the 37th Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21 by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life — one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — nearly 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the country, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.
Former smokers know how difficult quitting smoking or using tobacco products can be, but they also know it is an important step to living a longer and healthier life. Research shows that most people try to quit 7 to 10 times before they succeed, and with the Great American Smokeout, we can all take the first step together. The health benefits of quitting start immediately from the moment a person quits smoking. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke or using tobacco products.
The Great American Smokeout is not only about quitting smoking, but also about ensuring all Americans are protected from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. Every day non-smokers are exposed to the more than 60 known or probable carcinogens and 4,000 chemicals contained in secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, for every eight smokers who die from tobacco-related illnesses, they take one non-smoker with them. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, people who quit smoking, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke, and quitting smoking substantially decreases the risk of lung, laryngeal, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder and cervical cancers.
The Great American Smokeout is part of the American Cancer Society Great American Health Challenge, a year-round initiative that encourages Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to reduce their risk of cancer. Those who smoke and want to quit are urged to call the American Cancer Society’s Quitline, a clinically proven, free telephone-based counseling program, at 1-800-ACS-2345.
You can also log onto www.cancer.org/greatamericans to embark on a personal plan to quit or stop by Scotland County Department of Public Health or Scotland Memorial Hospital lobby for more information.
During the week of the Great American Smokeout, the Health Department will display an exhibit with educational materials on hand for those who smoke or use tobacco and want to quit. For information about smoking cessation, just call me.
Kathie Cox is a Health Educator II with the Scotland County Department of Public Health. Reach her at 910-277-2470, ext. 4478.