It’s never too late to stop smoking. And it isn’t too early—if you or a loved one or good friend is a smoker—to start thinking about next week’s Great American Smokeout.
The Great American Smokeout—or GASO, for short—is a signature American Cancer Society event that occurs every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. This year’s GASO celebrates the 32nd anniversary of this successful program which began in 1976.
Since GASO started, millions of men and women in this country have stopped smoking, and millions more haven’t started. In fact, today there are more former smokers in the United States than current smokers. But we still have about 20% of adults in this country still smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, that number is not falling as much as it did when GASO was first introduced over 30 years ago.
Did you know that the American Cancer Society estimates that since the early 1990’s hundreds of thousands of lives—especially among men--have been saved as a result of tobacco cessation and decreased uptake of the smoking habit? But we still lose over 435,000 people every year because of tobacco, which is the leading preventable cause of cancer deaths. If you smoke, the odds are 50% that it will lead to your death, frequently prematurely.
Tobacco increases cancer deaths from 15 different cancers, including many forms of head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer and cervical cancer among others.
And it’s not only the people who smoke who die prematurely from tobacco. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are 38,000 deaths in this country every year from the effects of second-hand smoke. The impact of smoking on children and their respiratory health is also well documented.
Tobacco is one of the most powerful addicting substances we know of. Despite that power, almost half of the nation’s 45.3 million smokers tried to quit sometime during the past year. Unfortunately, many of them weren’t successful. But that shouldn’t take away from the message that many desperately want to do something for their health.
The power of addiction is strong, but there has never been a better time to quit smoking than right now. We know so much more now about how to help people quit. We know that it is tough to do. We know that it can take many—yes, many—attempts at quitting before you are successful. We know that the best way to quit is to take the first step to put a plan in place that will help you focus on what you have to do to quit smoking.
There are lots of ways to help you quit. There are patches, lozenges, gums, sprays, and now effective medicines that can help you achieve your goal. We have telephone counseling services that are there to counsel you during your journey, and can double your chances of success.
In fact, the American Cancer Society’s Quitline has provided support to over 380,000 smokers since its inception in 2000. And it’s only a phone call away at 800-227-2345 (800-ACS-2345).
We have internet-based tools at www.cancer.org/GreatAmericans that can explain the best ways to quit, and provide you with information regarding the resources available to move you to success.
We have made remarkable progress in this country in reducing the burden of tobacco-related disease, but we have a long way to go.
Over half the communities in this country now have smoke-free laws. 43 states have raised tobacco taxes since 2000. The average tax nationwide on a pack of cigarettes is now $4.32.
One of my favorite examples of what can be accomplished is New York City, where the number of adult and teen smokers has dropped dramatically since the mayor, health commissioner and city council committed their authority and their resources to reducing cigarette consumption. The results (as previously reported in this blog) are nothing short of stunning. And if they can do it in New York, as the song goes, they can do it anywhere.
A journey begins with but one step. Start thinking today about taking that step next Thursday or any day of your choosing. Gather your friends and family around you and have them help you to begin your journey to become your own smoke-free zone.
Go to the web at www.cancer.org/GreatAmericans and check out the information on how to get started. Or call us at anytime—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—at 800-227-2345 and learn about how you can stop smoking and where you can get counseling and other help to get you to your goal.
We hope and pray that next year at this time, in Frank Sinatra’s words, you will find yourself “A number one, top of the list, king of the hill.”
Don’t forget: If they can do it there, you can do it anywhere!!!