• December 12, 2019

CATES: The Great American Smokeout - Odessa American: Health

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CATES: The Great American Smokeout

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Posted: Monday, November 18, 2019 12:30 am

When I had the privilege of working at the bedside and caring for patients every day, more often than not, at least one of my patients was in the hospital related to the effects of smoking.

Unfortunately, while I am no longer at the bedside every day and haven’t been for several years, smoking remains the cause for hospitalization for a large percentage of patients. 

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and illness around the world. More than 16 million Americans live with one or more smoking-related diseases. Smoking is related to 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. every year.

The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout is a day dedicated every year to encouraging people to quit smoking. This year, the Great American Smokeout falls on Nov. 21.

I have had people who would know tell me it’s harder to quit smoking than it is to quit heroin.

The American Cancer Society states that addiction to nicotine is one of the strongest addictions people can have, and the younger people started smoking, the more intense the addiction. That intense level of addiction is part of the reason the Great American Smokeout started over 40 years ago.

The American Cancer Society recognized that for people to quit successfully, they need a plan, and they need a great deal of support.

Stopping smoking has both immediate and long-term health benefits. Twenty minutes after quitting, both heart rate and blood pressure drop.

Twelve hours after quitting carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop to normal, two weeks to three months after quitting circulation improves and lung function increases.

One to nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease because structures in the lungs called cilia start to regain normal function and can do their job of cleaning out the lungs.

One year after quitting, the risk of coronary artery disease drops in half, and your risk for heart attack decreases dramatically.

Five years after quitting, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker, and stroke risk falls to that of a non-smoker as well.

Ten years after quitting, your risk of dying of lung cancer is half that of someone who is still smoking, and the risk of larynx cancer and pancreatic cancer have significantly decreased.

Fifteen years after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked.

The U.S. Surgeon General stated, “Smoking cessation [stopping smoking] represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.”  

Unfortunately, there is no one answer on how people can quit smoking. Success often takes multiple attempts and quitting is different for everyone.

But, those who are successful in quitting do several things in common.

First, they make the decision to quit. Think about why you want to quit and write down your reasons. Every time you want to smoke, look at that list of reasons why you want to quit.

Second, they set a Quit Day date and make a quit smoking plan. Picking that Quit Day is an important step. You want it far enough away that you can plan, but not so far away that you will change your mind — within the next month usually works best for most people. Often, picking a day with a special meaning (like a birthday or anniversary) helps. Make a strong personal commitment to quitting on that day.

Make a plan for how you will quit. Nicotine replacement therapy, prescription drugs and other methods can help you stop smoking, but often need a discussion with your health care provider. Support is also key to success in quitting. Stop-smoking programs, telephone quit lines, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, and self-help materials can all help, so plan on which forms of support will likely work best for you.

Enlist your family and friends in giving you help and encouragement as well. The best plans contain at least two of these options. The American Cancer Society has great resources to help you quit and to prepare for your Quit Day on their Great American Smokeout website: cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html.

If you smoke, please think about quitting and planning your Quit Day. 

If you care about someone who smokes, encourage them along the journey to quitting.

The American Cancer Society has great tips for friends and family to help their loved one be more successful in the difficult task of quitting smoking on their website at: cancer.org/stay-away-from-tobacco/helping-a-smoker-quit.html.

Quitting smoking is difficult, but with commitment and a plan, it is very possible.

Odessa, TX

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