In my posting this past Sunday I commented that this coming Thursday is the 30th annual Great American Smokeout.
This day recognizes the commitment of folks who have stopped smoking and those who want to stop smoking. We cannot and should not underestimate the importance of this day in keeping the issue of smoking cessation on the minds of many people in this country.
It is also a reminder that we could do better and that we still have a long road to travel.
I have commented in the past about what I call prevention fatigue.
Although I initially ascribed this condition to medical professionals who begin to feel that their recommendations for prevention services fall on increasingly deaf ears of their patients, I have more recently started recognizing that many patients and others are also becoming complacent when it comes to acting on prevention recommendations and services.
We may be running into a time when we have been saying to smokers so often that they need to take charge of their health and make a commitment to quit smoking that they are beginning to tune out the message.
The Great American Smokeout is a reminder that we can’t forget the importance of this message. We need to remember that the Smokeout sends the message to smokers and their families that it is never NOT a good time to make the commitment to stop smoking.
30 years ago, in Randolph, Massachusetts, a gentleman named Arthur Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money to a local high school scholarship fund according to the American Cancer Society.
In 1974, the editor of a newspaper in Monticello, Minnesota spearheaded the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day.
In November 1975, the American Cancer society’s California division succeeded in getting smokers to quit for the day.
The result was that in November, 1977 this country celebrated its first Great American Smokeout.
So maybe now is a good time to revisit some of the successes since the first Great American Smokeout was held 30 years ago:
- There are now more former smokers (46.5 million) than active smokers (45.1 million)
- Reductions in tobacco smoking account for about 40% of the decrease in cancer death rates among men between 1991 and 2003. During that time, at least 146,000 cancer deaths have been prevented
- 2300 communities and 17 states are now smoke-free, and on November 16th there will be 18 with the addition of Hawaii
Those are real successes in reducing the burden and suffering from cancer.
Now, in a sense, we are “on a roll” so to speak:
- More and more communities recognize the importance of creating smoke-free environments.
- Cigarette taxation is recognized as a key element in an effective tobacco control program.
- Thousands of lives have been saved.
- And, the third Thursday of every November has been enshrined as an important day to give a face and a focus on the tobacco epidemic in this country.
But we cannot be complacent, and there remains much to be done:
- We still lose over 435,000 people every year in this country as a result of tobacco.
- Half of all long-term smokers die from a tobacco related illness.
- Of these, half die in middle age between ages 35 and 69.
- Smoking still causes about 30% of all cancer deaths, not to mention the other associated debilitating diseases which some say is a living death through the suffering these folks endure with heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
- We are no longer seeing significant year to year declines in the percentage of smokers in this country, nor among high-school students who represent the next generation of tobacco addicts.
- We lose 3.3 million years of life every year in this country because of smoking among men, and 2.2 million years of life lost for women.
- We spend $167 billion in health-related costs every year in this country because of smoking.
- We spent $3.45 in medical care due to smoking and $3.73 in productivity—for a total of $7.18—for every pack of cigarettes smoked in 1999. Include cost inflation, especially for medical care costs, and the total is bound to get our attention.
So if you or someone you love is a smoker, what should the Great American Smokeout mean to you?
It is NOT going to be a day when you suddenly wake up and make a decision to throw your cigarettes into a trash can and stop smoking.
It SHOULD be a day for you to wake up and make a commitment to stop smoking and start to develop a plan for success. We can help you with information on our website or through our call center at 1-800-ACS-2345. We can help get you started on a path to your better health.
There are lots of tools that can help you keep your commitment.
Nicotine replacements, medications including a new one (Chantix) that will help reduce the cravings, and telephone counseling services are all proven techniques that will help you reach your goal.
You need to remember that you may have to try several methods before you achieve success in stopping smoking.
You need to prepare for life as a non-smoker. Planning is the key to success, and planning is key to understanding what you can do to deal with the inevitable cravings that will occur as you undertake and commit to your journey.
So this Thursday, make it a point to start planning your life as a non-smoker. If you have a family member who is a smoker, let them know about your love and your concern. Pick up a phone and call us.
We are here to help, and when the Great American Smokeout celebrates its 31st, 40th or even 50th anniversary, we hope you will remember the commitment you make this Thursday as a day that changed your life.
When you make that commitment and stick to it, it makes tour efforts to sustain and publicize this special day all the more worthwhile.