Great American Smokeout Nov. 20

n Estimated 6,800 will die of lung cancer in Illinois this year

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women, claiming an estimated 157,000 lives nationally this year.

In Illinois, projections show that 7,400 new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2003, and an estimated 6,800 men and women will die of the disease. This loss of life comes even though lung cancer is the most preventable form of cancer. That’s because the majority of lung cancer deaths—87 percent—result from tobacco use. Quitting smoking—or better yet, never starting—saves lives.

On Nov. 20, the American Cancer Society will mark the 27th annual Great American Smokeout by encouraging smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day. Last year, nearly 9 million of the nation’s estimated 46 million smokers took part in the event, with nearly 3 million abstaining from smoking the entire day.

American Cancer Society volunteers like Jay Akley of Garden Prairie will be speaking to students about the dangers of smoking during Great American Smokeout. The 61-year-old throat cancer survivor shared his story with fifth graders at Meehan Elementary School in Belvidere Nov. 17.

“I went through a lot of pain and discomfort after I was diagnosed with late stage throat cancer almost three years ago,” Akley said. “I had lymph nodes removed from my throat, and I was fed through a tube for nine months. I tell these kids that if they smoke, they might end up on the unlucky side of cancer. I show them the tube that was in my stomach and the intimidating mask I had to wear during radiation. If scaring them is what it takes to keep them from picking up a cigarette, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Akley smoked off and on for 30 years before he was diagnosed. A persistent sore throat brought him to the doctor, and a biopsy came back positive for cancer.

For smokers who want to quit using tobacco, the American Cancer Society offers support and information not only the day of the Great American Smokeout, but any day. Support is available 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-ACS-2345 or logging on to The Society’s Quitline, which is used by 33 states, is expected to field 48,000 calls this year.

In Illinois, quitline services are provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Smokers who are ready to quit can call 1-866-QUIT YES (1-866-784-8937) for help.

Behavioral programs, such as quitlines, can achieve long-term abstinence rates of 12 to 18 percent in a single attempt. And combining FDA-approved medications with a program to help change behavior can double a smoker’s chance of quitting successfully.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking is a major cause of cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and cervix. More recently, it has been associated with colorectal cancer, myeloid leukemia, and cancers of the liver, stomach and nasal sinuses.

It’s not only smokers whose health is compromised by tobacco use. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke can become ill, or even die, from it. Secondhand smoke—the third leading cause of preventable death in America—causes a variety of illnesses in non-smokers, including cancer, heart disease, respiratory ailments, and stroke. It is estimated that for every eight smokers who die from their tobacco use, one non-smoker also dies from exposure to secondhand smoke.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Society’s Illinois Division has more than 120,000 volunteers and 250 staff members fighting cancer in the state. For cancer-related information 24 hours a day, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!