Posted: Nov 18, 2013 8:00 AM
 
Nov. 21, 2013, marks the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout: a day that encourages smokers to make a plan to quit and take a step toward a healthier life.

Once a smoker

Alison, age 37, smoked on and off from age 19, sometimes going from 10 cigarettes a day to not touching one for weeks. She met her husband, who was also a smoker, and they only enabled each other in their habit. "Not smoking never came up," she admits, "until 2007 when I felt like I was dying because I couldn't breathe properly." The smoking was taking its toll on Alison’s asthma, so she quit, only to pick it back up again on the sly in 2008 when she traveled for work. She finally quit for good in 2009, when she and her husband started trying to get pregnant.

Scary smoking statistics

One in five adults in the U.S. still chooses to light up regardless of the threats of cancers, emphysema and heart disease.

Despite the fact that lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, has been linked with smoking, as well as cancers of the larynx, mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder, tobacco use is still the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, one in five adults in the U.S. still chooses to light up regardless of the threats of cancers, emphysema and heart disease. The affliction is responsible for nearly one in three of all cancer deaths, and one in five deaths of all causes.

The American Cancer Society hopes to bring these statistics down with their Great American Smokeout, held annually on the third Thursday of November. The nationwide event aims to give smokers the opportunity to make a plan to quit or plan in advance to quit that day. Even those who refrain from smoking on just that day have taken an important step toward bettering their health.

A nationwide movement

The first official Great American Smokeout was in 1976, when the California division of the American Cancer Society got nearly one million people to quit for the day. The following year the program went nationwide. The movement has changed the way consumers view tobacco ads and use, waging war on cigarette ads that blatantly target young people and eventually banning cigarette companies from advertising on billboards and from sponsoring major events (television ads were banned in 1971). Since then, some state and local governments have banned smoking in many work places and restaurants.

Benefits of quitting

In all quitters, oxygen will flow more freely to the brain. Damaged nerve endings will eventually begin to regrow, and the sense of smell and taste will return to normal.

Giving up cigarettes will increase overall health, but what exactly does that mean? In those who quit without the aid of nicotine replacement therapies, the benefits are almost immediate, with blood pressure, pulse and temperature in extremities returning to normal. In all quitters, oxygen will flow more freely to the brain. Damaged nerve endings will eventually begin to regrow, and the sense of smell and taste will return to normal. Lung functions will improve and risk of smoking-related heart disease decreases.

Resources and support

The American Cancer Society’s website states that “smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support.” Unfortunately, fewer than one-third of all smokers admit to having tried any of the following therapies recommended by the organization.

  • Telephone hotlines
  • Support groups, either online or in person
  • Counseling
  • Nicotine replacement products (patches, gum, e-cigarettes)
  • Prescription medications to lessen cravings

The most important element in kicking the habit is garnering support from friends and family. According to the American Cancer Society, only 4 percent – 7 percent are able to quit smoking without any medications or other assistance. About 25 percent who do use quitting aids may stay smoke free for over six months. Support and counseling can only help those numbers go up.


^
If you or someone you love is looking to quit smoking, consider making a plan now and quitting together on Nov. 21, 2013. Visit the American Cancer Society’s website for more information on the Great American Smokeout and to find support for smokers looking to start a healthier lifestyle.

More on healthy living

Household drugs and your teen: A prescription for addiction?
Best doctor mom blogs
5 Ways to get the most out of your annual physical exam

Topics: