Tobacco users urged to kick habit for day

After 29 years of being a habitual smoker, Sandi McIntyre is ready to quit.

Today's national day of encouraging smokers to snuff out tobacco use is an incentive that might help her kick the habit, she said.

"I've been wanting to quit," McIntyre said. "It helps to have a day like this because it's hard enough already to quit."

For the past 27 years, the American Cancer Society has designated one day each year asking smokers and tobacco users such as McIntyre to snuff out the habit. Organizers hope today's Great American Smokeout will help people across the country quit smoking or chewing tobacco for the day-- and potentially, for good.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 85 percent of smokers want to quit.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things people can do for their health, group members said, and for their pocketbooks. The recent passage of the state's Amendment 35 will add $235 a year for a pack-a-day smoker and increase the cost of a can of chewing tobacco by 20 percent.

Youths from Moffat County's Get REAL! Tobacco Prevention Coalition and Moffat County Grand Futures coalition are distributing 250 smoking quit kits. They include information for quitting smoking and smokeless tobacco. Kits are available today while supplies last. They may be picked up in the pharmacies of City Market and Safeway grocery stores, at Kmart and at the Visiting Nurse Association building, 785 Russell St. in Craig.

"They usually go fast," said Judy Hiester with the Northwest Colorado Tobacco Prevention Program.

"Our hope is that people will review the information and quit for one day and, hopefully, for longer."

Smokers also can access a free Colorado Quitline at 1-800-639-QUIT or use an Internet service called Quitnet at http://co.quitnet.com/.

Even with the resources, Hiester said Moffat County residents have been slow to use them.

About a dozen residents have used the telephone and counseling services, she said.

"Nine times out of 10, people are more successful quitting when they have help," she said.

Hiester also credited the use of medications and smoking cessation tactics to help curb a nicotine addiction that "is as hard to quit as quitting heroine or cocaine."

"We wouldn't expect people to quit using those drugs without help, so we don't expect them to quit smoking by themselves," she said.

Moffat County also has a 10 percent higher rate than the state average of those using smokeless tobacco, Hiester said.

Using smokeless tobacco is just as dangerous to a user's health as smoking cigarettes, she said.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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