Living Well: Quit smoking now before it’s too late
- Quitlines such as the Colorado QuitLine (call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to connect with a free personal quitting coach)
- American Cancer Society Freshstart Program (www.acsworkplacesolutions.com/freshstart.asp)
- Nicotine Anonymous meetings (nicotine-anonymous.org)
- Self-help books and materials
- Smoking counselors or coaches
- Encouragement and support from friends and family members
- Prescription medicine or nicotine replacement
The Great American Smokeout, a national initiative that encourages smokers to quit, is Nov. 21
Smoking can cause 16 different types of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke and other serious health problems; yet more than 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.
The American Cancer Society reports that smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world, causing an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.
For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. The event aims to encourage smokers to make a plan to quit, or begin the process of quitting.
Quitting can reverse health risks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that quitting smoking can lower the risks for cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, esophagus and larynx.
“Within five years of quitting, your chance of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is cut in half,” according to the CDC. “Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half.”
Dr. Netana Machacek, family medicine physician at Memorial Regional Health, has seen the harmful effects of smoking first-hand through her practice.
“The most devastating cases are the older adults who are completely dependent on oxygen and don’t have the energy to take care of themselves because their lung function is so poor,” she said. “Unfortunately, at that point, there is nothing they can do to fix the damage, and most patients will die of their lung condition. Many of these patients suffer from the terrifying feeling that they can’t breathe at some point in their illness.”
She said that quitting often takes many attempts, which is why smokers who have unsuccessfully tried to quit should not give up.
“One of the most important things is to have the support of your family and friends. If they use tobacco, having them quit with you can make both of you more successful,” Dr. Machacek said. “The method used to quit is an individual preference. There are lots of options out there and it can be helpful to try a different method than you have in the past.”
Talk to your doctor or call the Colorado QuitLine (see factbox) to begin the process.
Cigarettes are poison
There are about 600 ingredients in cigarettes that, when burned, create more than 7,000 chemicals — of which at least 69 are known to cause cancer, according to the American Lung Association. Some of these toxic chemicals are found in other products that you would never consider consuming, such as nail polish remover, hair dye, rat poison, lighter fluid, batteries, mothballs, battery acid, paint and insecticide, to name a few.
Cigarette smoke is so harmful that even nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have higher risks of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Since 1964, more than 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers have died from secondhand smoke.
“Even if you aren’t ready to quit smoking, please try to protect other people’s health by smoking in an area where they will not be subject to secondhand smoke. This is especially important for children who can’t help being in a car or home with a parent or other caregiver that smokes,” said Dr. Machacek. “Infants and children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asthma attacks and ear infections.”