Every year, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout by smoking less or quitting for the day on the third Thursday of November. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and raises awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good.
This year, Nov. 15 is the day. If you are a smoker, why not use this as an incentive to quit? Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guide books, and the encouragement of friends and family members.
Despite that, only about one in seven current smokers reports having tried any of the recommended therapies during his or her last quit attempt. Telephone quitlines are a convenient new resource, available for free in many states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44.5 million US adults were current smokers in 2004 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). This is 20.9 percent of all adults (23.4 percent of men, 18.5 percent of women) more than one out of five people.
The numbers were higher in younger age groups. Almost 24 percent of those 18 to 44 years old were current smokers, compared to less than 9 percent in those aged 65 or older. Nationwide, 22.3 percent of high school students and 8.1 percent of middle school students were current smokers in 2004. White and Hispanic students were among the highest in terms of cigarette use.
About half of all Americans who continue to smoke will die because of the habit. Each year about 440,000 people die in the United States from illnesses related to cigarette smoking. Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined.
Did you know that cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society? It is a major cause of cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box), oral cavity, pharynx (throat), esophagus, and bladder, and is a contributing cause in the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, kidney, stomach and also some leukemias.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, and is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. About 87 percent of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Fortunately, lung cancer is largely a preventable disease.
The risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers is related to total lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke, as measured by the number of cigarettes smoked each day, the age at which smoking began, and the number of years a person has smoked. There is no way to accurately calculate a person's risk of getting cancer, but the more you smoke and the longer you do it, the greater your risk.
The good news is that the risk of having smoking-related illnesses can be reduced by quitting smoking. The risk of lung cancer is less in people who quit smoking than in people who continue to smoke the same number of cigarettes per day, and the risk decreases as the number of years since quitting increases.
People who stop smoking at younger ages experience the greatest health benefits from quitting. Those who quit in their 30s may avoid most of the risk due to tobacco use. However, even smokers who quit after age 50 substantially reduce their risk of dying early. The argument that it is too late to quit smoking because the damage is already done is not true. It is never too late to quit smoking.
FTMC is committed to helping persons become smoke and tobacco free and celebrates the Great American Smokeout with the following activities:
Get advice or have your questions answered by FTMC respiratory therapists by calling (419) 668-8101, ext. 8449 or toll free (800) 589-3862, ext. 8449.
Join a stop smoking class. Get information about FTMC's five-week class that will run on Thursdays beginning Nov. 8 to Dec. 6 (the third class will be Nov. 21 because of Thanksgiving). Call (419) 668-8101, ext. 6320 for more information.
Visit FTMC's self-guided interactive smoking cessation program at ftmc.com/stopsmoking and begin your class today to fit your schedule.
Dr. Timothy W. Mummert is an internist. He practices with North Central Internal Medicine in Norwalk and is a member of Fisher-Titus Medical Center's medical staff.