Smokers go cold turkey

Amanda Rogers
Staff Writer

   The Great American Smokeout was held across the United States Oct. 18 in hopes that smokers, dippers and chewers quit cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff for at least one day and eventually forever.

   More people quit smoking on this day than any other day of the year. The event was sponsored by the University of Arkansas-Monticello's Counseling and Testing, Intramurals and Recreation, and Student Health Services. Survival kits filled with goodies and information to help get through the day were available n the Gibson University Center's Green Room.

   Every year, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout by smoking less or quitting for the day on the third Thursday in  November. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and raises awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good. 

   Research suggests that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medications to lessen cravings, guide books and the encouragement of friends and family members. Despite that, only about one in seven current smokers reports having tried any of the recommended therapies during his or her last quit attempt.

   The Smokeout has helped bring about dramatic changes in Americans’ attitudes about smoking, which have led to community programs and smoke-free laws that are now saving lives in many states. 

   The event began in the 1970s when smoking and secondhand smoke were commonplace. The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew out of a 1974 event. Lynn Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, collaborated the state’s first D-Day, or Don’t Smoke Day. The idea may have been inspired by Arthur Mullaney of Randolph of Massachusetts, who three years earlier had asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund.

   The idea caught on, and on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly 1 million smokers to quit for one day. That California event marked the first Smokeout, and the Society took it nationwide in 1977.

   One of the main concerns of the Smokeout is the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking. During the 1980s and 1990s many state and local governments responded by banning smoking in workplaces and restaurants, raising taxes on cigarettes, limiting advertising, discouraging teen cigarette use and taking further actions to counter smoking. According to a 2003 report in "Cancer Causes and Control," lung cancer death rates among adults age 30-39 were lower and falling in most states that had a strong anti-tobacco program. 

   Currently, an estimated 46 million U.S. adults smoke. Tobacco use can cause lung cancer, as well as other cancers, lung disease and respiratory disease. Smoking is responsible for one in three cancer deaths, and one in five deaths from all causes. Another 8.6 million people are living with serious illnesses caused by smoking. But, fortunately smoking in the United States is declining. In 2003, 22.1 percent of adults in the United States smoked, a drop of about half a percentage point from the previous year. 

   The 2010 health goals, however, envision just 12 percent of American adults as smokers. So far, only Utah has met that goal. The state had the lowest smoking rate in the nation in 2003, with 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women lighting up, for an overall average of 12 percent. Kentucky was the worst with nearly 31 percent of adult smokers.

   But why quit? Quitting has an almost immediate impact on a smoker’s health. Within minutes, blood pressure and heart rate drop. After a few hours, levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen in the blood return to normal. Within a few weeks or months, lung function, coughing and shortness of breath improve. Over the course of one to 15 years, former smokers can expect their risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer to drop. 

  Also smoking can discolor teeth, cause stinky breath and increase insurance costs, both health and house. Smoking is also expensive. The average pack of cigarettes is about $4 per pack. Using this number, a pack-a-day smoker burns through about $30 per week, or approximately $1,600 per year. That is equal to a nice vacation, car down payment or credit card bill. The one place many smokers feel free and comfortable to light up is in their car. Without consistent and thorough cleanings, however, a car that is smoked in will soon start to resemble an ashtray on wheels. The interior will inevitably smell like smoke, and stray ashes and butts can burn holes in the upholstery and floor mats.

   So, plan to go cold this Thanksgiving Break and quit tobacco use. It will be better for not only your health, but also your checking account.

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The Voice, 2004
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