37th annual Great American Smokeout

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Cynthia Moody-LaRiviere
  • 102 Medical Group, Public Health
November 15th is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout. It is a day to encourage smokers to make a plan to quit the habit. Are you going to join in this year?

Tobacco use is the number-one preventable cause of death in America. Smoking places the smoker at risk for numerous cancers and lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Mark Twain stated, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." Do you relate to this statement? The reason smoking is so hard to quit is due to nicotine addiction.

Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco, as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time a person becomes physically dependent and emotionally addicted to nicotine. Trying to stop causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and makes it hard to stay away from nicotine after stopping.

Health concerns should be at the top of your list of reasons to quit smoking. This is a very real concern; smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Half of all smokers who keep smoking will end up dying from a smoking-related illness. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths from smoking-related lung and heart diseases.

You are probably aware that smoking can cause lung cancer, but do you realize it is also linked to higher risk for many other kinds of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, nose, sinuses, larynx, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, ovary, cervix, stomach, colon, rectum, and acute myeloid leukemia?

If cancer isn't scary enough, how about heart attacks, strokes, and blood vessel disease? Smoking is a major risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, a narrowing of blood vessels that carry oxygen to your legs and arm muscles. Men who smoke are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction because of blood vessel disease.

Women have their own special risks when it comes to smoking. If you're over 35, smoke, and use birth control, you have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots in the legs. Women are also more likely to miscarry or have a lower birth weight baby if smoking during pregnancy. Also, if a mother smokes during pregnancy, studies show a higher risk of the baby developing asthma in childhood.

Then there's secondhand smoke, which harms the health of those around you. Children raised in homes where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and breathing problems.

No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. The health benefits for you and those around you of quitting smoking are far greater than risks of continuing smoking. Studies show that the effects of quitting smoking are immediate.

Tobacco free timeframe and benefits after quitting:
  • 20 minutes  - Heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • 72 hours      - Nicotine is completely out of the body
  • 12 hours      - Carbon monoxide level is normal
  • 2-12 weeks - Circulation improves and lung functions increases
  • 1-9 months  - Coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • 1 year            - Coronary heart disease risk is half that of a smoker
  • 5 years          - Risk of stroke equals that of a non-smoker
  • 10 years        - Lung cancer death rate is half that of a smoker
  • 15 years        - Risk of coronary heart disease is the same as non-smoker
There are a number of resources available to help smokers quit. It's not going to be easy to give up something that has been a part of your life for so long, but each day without a cigarette brings a person one step closer to being a success story.

The website www.UCanQuit2.org is DoD/Tricare sponsored. It provides visitors with the most up-to-date information regarding tobacco use, ways to quit, and 24-hour support.

In addition, some other great websites are: