The American Cancer Society marks the 37th Great American Smokeout on Thursday, November 15 by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. An estimated one billion people worldwide will die during the 21st century because of tobacco use, according to The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation. The Society provides tips and tools online to help smokers quit tobacco for good.
“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States,” said Alicia Gardner, Health Initiatives director for the American Cancer Society in Greater Michigan. “Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do for your health and the Great American Smokeout is a great way to start.”
Tobacco use accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 80 percent of lung cancer deaths. In the U.S., tobacco use is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths, or about 443,000 premature deaths each year. Smokers who quit, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke. In just 20 minutes after quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure drop, and in about 1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
The American Cancer Society created the trademarked concept for and held its first Great American Smokeout in 1976 as a way to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for a day. One million people quit smoking for a day at the 1976 event in California. The Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to commit to making a long-term plan to quit smoking for good. Find tips and tools online to help you quit smoking for good.
Important facts about tobacco use from The Tobacco Atlas, Fourth Edition, newly published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation:
o Cigarette smoking costs the United States more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures).
o In 2011, tobacco use killed almost 6 million people, with nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
o An estimated 600,000 people die annually because of secondhand smoke.
Consider these stay-quit tips from the American Cancer Society.
Set a date. Picking a “quit day” is a critical first step. It’s best to pick a date within the next month, so you allow enough time to prepare and create a plan but not enough time to change your mind. You might want to join thousands of other people across the country in choosing Nov. 15, the date of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout® as your quit day or the day you make a plan to quit for good. Then be sure to tell your friends and family which day you’ve chosen so they can help support you and hold you accountable. Download a free Smokeout countdown clock for your computer desktop at cancer.org/smokeout with tips to help you prepare for your quit day.
Make a plan. Successfully quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Many smokers prefer to quit cold turkey on their quit day, while others try to smoke fewer cigarettes leading up to their quit day to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in their body and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Decide what works best for you, whether it’s nicotine replacement or other medicines, joining a stop-smoking class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings, using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, or some combination of these methods. The Quit For Life® Program, brought to you by the American Cancer Society and operated by Alere Wellbeing, is another option that links tobacco users with trained coaches who can help make a plan to quit for good. Find more details about all of these options at cancer.org/smokeout.
Once your plan is in place, start working on small changes like discarding cigarettes and ashtrays in your home and car, stocking up on oral substitutes like sugarless gum and hard candy or carrot sticks, and practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke,” when offered a cigarette. Of course, it’s very important to set up a support system through a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and will help you through the difficult days ahead.
Don’t smoke on your quit day. Don’t take even one puff! Keep your mind and body occupied by exercising or losing yourself in an enjoyable hobby, and avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong (this may include avoiding alcohol). You may need to change up your routine by taking a different route to work, eating breakfast in a different place, or eating different foods. It will take time to unlink smoking from your daily activities, and even if you are using a nicotine replacement you may still have strong urges to smoke. Find more tips to help you through this critical day at cancer.org/smokeout.
Avoid rationalizations. “I’ll have just one cigarette to get me through this situation” … “Everyone dies of something” … “How bad is smoking, really?” Write down rationalizations as they come up and recognize them as messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Be ready with a distraction to redirect your thoughts to something else. You can download a free “craving stopper” application at cancer.org/smokeout to help distract yourself with a memory match game or find more tips to help when a craving hits.
Bounce back from slips. A slip is a one-time mistake that is quickly corrected; a relapse is going back to smoking. While it may be tempting to use a slip as an excuse to go back to your old ways, you also can look at what went wrong and renew your commitment. Try not to get too discouraged – very few people are able to quit for good on the first try. Use what you learn from the slip to make a stronger quitting attempt next time.
Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Join the American Cancer Society for the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15 and explore all of our free information, tips, and tools at cancer.org/smokeout or by calling 1-800-227-2345.