It's that time of year again.
Thanksgiving is just a week away (go turkey!!!), which means today is the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout (or GASO for short). In fact, 2011 is the 36th year for the Smokeout, which makes it a longstanding (and successful) tradition in our world.
What, you may ask, is GASO?
Well, GASO is a day to focus on the opportunity--if you are a smoker or know someone who is--to make a commitment to quit, or perhaps a day to choose as your "quit day" if you were alert enough to plan ahead. It is a day when you can take a step that could be one of the most important ones you can make, a pledge to do something which could be the single greatest thing you can do for your health, a day to reduce your risk of death from cancer and many other diseases related to smoking.
Quitting isn't easy. We all know that. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are among the most addicting substances we can take into our bodies. And the sad reality is that if you decide to smoke, the chances are about 1 in 2 that smoking will have a role in causing your death. And to make matters even worse, that death is likely to be premature.
In fact, every year in this country, 443,000 people die from tobacco related illnesses.
If that number doesn't scare you, think about it this way (maybe because I am on an airplane as a write this):
If we lost three 747 airliners (which can carry over 400 passengers) every day for a year, we would be in an uproar. But we allow that same thing to happen every day without getting all that upset about it. And, by the way, 49,400 of those 443,000 people are non-smokers.
In addition, 30% of cancer deaths in the United States are related to smoking--as are 87% of lung cancer deaths. And it's not just lung cancer: it is 14 other cancers as well, such as bladder cancer, head and neck cancer, cervical cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer among others. We know that if you quit tobacco your risk of lung cancer will go down. In fact, in 10 years, your risk will be half what it would have been had you continued to smoke. And, if you stop smoking, you will on average live 10 years longer than someone who didn't quit.
We have made progress in this country against tobacco. We have many fewer smokers now than we did decades ago, but we have stalled at the number of smokers with about 20 -21% of the population still smoking. And kids continue to pick up the habit despite our best efforts. We have smoke free laws throughout the United States, and have been successful in many states at increasing the cost of a pack of cigarettes enough to make some people think twice about starting smoking and others thinking seriously about quitting.
We have medications to help people quit, and counseling services that have been shown to increase the odds you will be successful in your efforts. And there are prescription medicines available that will help you quit if you haven't been successful with over-the-counter products that are readily available everywhere.
Despite all of this, we still have people who smoke. Maybe that person is you or someone you love.
So what's holding you back? We know that many smokers want to quit, and that many smokers have tried to quit many times. But we also know that failing to maintain a smoke-free life does not mean failure. It may well be the next "quit effort" that could be the charm.
The American Cancer Society wants to help you make good on your pledge. Check out the information on our website at www.cancer.org/smokeout or give us a call at 1-800-227-2345. We are here to help whenever you need us.
And, if you make the pledge today, perhaps on next year's 37th Great American Smokeout you will be able to celebrate your one year anniversary of being free from the shackles of tobacco. And that would make next Thanksgiving a great occasion.
So, why not go for it? Make the promise today for you and those who love you. Nothing could make your family more thankful next Thanksgiving than knowing you cared enough about yourself to do something as important for your health than getting off tobacco.
Even the turkey and stuffing would be glad to be a second act to that celebration.