Great American Smokeout Nov. 17

Thursday, Nov. 17, the American Cancer Society marks the 29th annual Great American Smokeout(R), nationally recognized as a platform to educate the public on the dangers associated with tobacco use and to encourage smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day.

This year, more than 11 million smokers are estimated to participate in Great American Smokeout(R).

Many Americans understand the dangers associated with tobacco use. More and more are successfully quitting, but lung cancer remains the No. 1 cancer killer among men and women. This year alone, approximately 172,570 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and an estimated 163,510 people will die from the disease. Smoking is also associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, nasal cavities, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, cervix, kidney, bladder, and myeloid leukemia.

Get motivated

More than 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, but fewer than 5 percent are successful each year. Motivation and commitment account for much of the gap. Tom Glynn, director of Science and Trends at the American Cancer Society, says there is a difference between a person who would like to quit and a person who looks in the mirror and makes a commitment to become a nonsmoker by a certain time. The smoker who finds the motivation to make that statement has a greater chance of success.

Finding that motivation isn’t easy. Glynn suggests making a list of specific benefits of quitting, including things like living to see your grandkids, saving money and having a better quality of life.

Make a plan and stick to it

After you find the motivation to quit, devise a plan and stick to it. Resources such as trained telephone counselors can be very powerful tools. More than 30 states have some type of free smoking cessation hotline available. Organizations like the American Cancer Society can connect you with these types of support and other resources. Medications, patches and gums can also be helpful.

A strong support system is equally important. Beacause nicotine is addictive and withdrawal can cause irritability, involve your friends and family in your plan from the beginning so they can be prepared to help you through the rough periods. And if you aren’t successful in your first attempt, don’t give up. Try again.

The impact of quitting

Quitting smoking is difficult, but Glynn gives smokers some benefits to look forward to:

Within the first minute of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate go down, your lung capacity increases, and you can taste your food better.

And over time, you can walk up the stairs easier because you have increased energy and stamina; your clothes won’t smell like smoke; and you’ll save a lot of money. After a year of not smoking, your risk of heart attack decreases by half, and you lower your risk of cancer.

The American Cancer Society can double your chances of quitting successfully. To find out more day or night, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit anytime.

From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue

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