The Great American Smoke Out is an annual event run by the American Cancer Society on the third Thursday of November that encourages smokers to quit or make a plan to quit.

By raising awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and by promoting stop smoking resources there have been many changes since the 1970s when this event first began, according to the Monroe County Health Department. Smoking has been banned in workplaces and restaurants, taxes on cigarettes have increased, cigarette advertisements have decreased, teens are discouraged from using cigarettes and the attitude toward smoking has changed.

Despite these efforts, the American Cancer Society reports that one in five American adults still smokes cigarettes. In Monroe County, about 17 percent of adults continue to smoke.

The health department says tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of disease and death in the world. It is estimated that 32 percent of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, a statistic that doesn’t include second-hand smoke. Additionally, 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths are due to smoking. Besides cancer, smoke damage to the lungs can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking also damages the heart and blood vessels, which leads to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

The health department offered the following tips to help quit smoking:

  • Create a plan to quit smoking, and once the decision to quit is made, pick a specific day to start.
  • Talk to a doctor about ways to quit, such as nicotine replacement therapy, prescription drugs or other methods.
  • Find support. Whether it’s family, friends, stop-smoking groups, online quit groups, counseling, self-help books or pamphlets, any help and encouragement will enable smokers to quit for good. Only about four to seven percent of people are able to quit without the help of medicine, programs or support.
  • When quit day arrives, do not smoke at all.
  • Avoid others who are smoking or situations where you feel a strong urge to smoke.
  • Because smoking is such a strong habit, following normal routines may trigger cravings. Try changing the daily routine to lessen these cravings. For example, eating meals in a different place, trying different foods or taking different routes to work are ways to mix things up.
  • When craving a cigarette, take deep breaths, sip water slowly, do something active to occupy the mind or change activities.

While quitting is hard, there are resources available to help those addicted to nicotine succeed. The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line is a free service sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services that helps people quit vaping, smoking or other tobacco use. Call 800-784-8669 to talk to a coach about quitting.

For more information about the Great American Smoke Out or for more resources to quit, visit https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout/history-of-the-great-american-smokeout.html.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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