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CDC recommends that November 15 is the day to quit smoking

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
quit smoking, Great American Smokeout, nicotin addiction, help

Today, November 15, 2012 is the day of the Great American Smokeout (GASO). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you join others around the nation today and make plans to quit smoking for good.

The CDC notes that almost 70% of smokers want to stop smoking and each year about 52% of them try to stop each year. If you or someone you know is a smoker, the idea of quitting (or helping someone else to quit) has probably crossed your mind. The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, takes place every year on the third Thursday of November. It was established to encourage smokers to not smoke on that day and to make plans to quit smoking for good.

The CDC notes the following sad statistics:

  • Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and premature death in the United States. The numbers are sobering:
  • Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke result in more than 443,000 deaths a year.
  • For every person who dies from smoking, another 20 individuals are living with a smoking-related disease.
  • Smoking costs the United States about $96 billion each year in medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity due to premature death.

Despite these statistics, 43.8 million Americans still smoke. A tobacco addiction is a particularly one to overcome; however, no matter how long an individual has smoke, quitting still has health benefits. The benefits will start immediately:

  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Two to three months after quitting: Your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
  • Three weeks after quitting: Your physical symptoms of nicotine addiction end.
  • One to nine months after quitting: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • One year after quitting: Your risk for heart attack drops sharply.

It can take longer for other important benefits to occur:

  • Two to five years after quitting: Your risk for suffering a stroke could decrease to about the same as that of a nonsmoker’s.
  • Within five years of quitting: Your chance for cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half.
  • Ten years after quitting: Your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half.

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Women who smoke during pregnancy increase their the risk of pregnancy complications, premature delivery, low birth weight infants, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome. Furthermore, the lungs of babies and children who breathe secondhand smoke do not function as well as well as those who are not exposed to smoke. Quitting smoking is one of the best things a woman can do to improve the health of her baby. In addition, it helps protect others from exposure to secondhand smoke.

It is difficult to quit smoking because nicotine, a chemical that is in all tobacco products, is highly addictive. Some studies have reported that cigarette smoking is a more difficult habit to break than heroin. More individuals in the United States are addicted to nicotine than to any other chemical. Because nicotine is highly addictive, individuals often find it difficult to quit smoking. They may feel more irritable or anxious, have trouble concentrating, and have an increased appetite when they try to stop. These are some of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Because these symptoms are uncomfortable, many individuals resume smoking. The 2008 Clinical Practice Guideline Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence concluded that “Tobacco dependence is a chronic disease that often requires repeated interventions and multiple attempts to quit.”

Most smokers try to quit several times before succeeding. However, many individuals ultimately succeed. Since 2002, the number of former US smokers has exceeded the number of current smokers. Smokers can learn from previous quit attempts and be better prepared to overcome the specific challenges (sometimes called triggers) that cause them to start smoking again. With continued encouragement and support, many people keep trying until they succeed in stopping smoking for good.

There are many ways to quit smoking; however, no single method works for everyone. One needs to keep trying until he or she find a specific treatment or combination of treatments that best suits individual needs and gives one the best chance of quitting permanently. Most importantly, do not give up trying to quit. Seek out people who will offer you support and encouragement.

Many proven services and treatments can ease withdrawal symptoms and help one quit. Although many individuals quit without medication, FDA-approved medications, combined with counseling, can greatly increase the likelihood of quitting successfully. Combining medication and counseling is more effective than either medication or counseling alone. An excellent telephone resource for smoking cessation is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You can get free support and advice from experienced counselors, a personalized quit plan, self-help materials, the latest information about cessation medications, and more.

Online services and resources are also available through the following Web sites:

  • www.smokefree.gov: Provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.
  • women.smokefree: Provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of women trying to quit smoking.
  • Quit Tobacco: Make Everyone Proud: A US. Department of Defense-sponsored Web site for military personnel and their families.
  • American Cancer Society: This website provides many resources to help you stop smoking.

Reference: CDC