Be a quit­ter, at least for a day

The Star Democrat - - OPINION -

There was a time in Mary­land when to­bacco was king. The leaf was a pil­lar of the econ­omy, and al­though most of the to­bacco pro­duced lo­cally wound up in Europe, plenty of folks here got and kept the habit of smok­ing. That led to a not-so-pleas­ant tra­di­tion: can­cer.

In 2001, Mary­land be­gan a 10-year pro­gram to buy out to­bacco farm­ers. One of the buy­out’s stated goals was help­ing farm­ers tran­si­tion into other crops. That has been marginally suc­cess­ful, but the state also pumped money into anti-smok­ing pro­grams. That push to­ward pre­ven­tion has con­tin­ued, even though the buy­out ended six years ago.

All over Amer­ica, fewer peo­ple are smok­ing than in decades past, when ad­ver­tis­ing on TV and in mag­a­zines once made light­ing up seem so­phis­ti­cated and cool, even healthy. But ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety, about 42 mil­lion Amer­i­cans still smoke cig­a­rettes — and to­bacco use re­mains the sin­gle largest pre­ventable cause of dis­ease and pre­ma­ture death in the United States.

To raise aware­ness of that, to­mor­row, the third Thurs­day in Novem­ber, is the Great Amer­i­can Smoke­out. The can­cer so­ci­ety uses this day to chal­lenge smok­ers. Give it up for a day, they say, and maybe you can quit for good.

Mary­land of­fers a free To­bacco Quit­line at 1-800-QUITNOW, avail­able 24 hours a day, seven days per week, to sup­port any­one who would like to quit to­bacco. They’re there to talk you down be­fore you light up. And there’s a free text mes­sag­ing pro­gram called Smoke­freeTXT that gives en­cour­age­ment, ad­vice and tips to be be­come smoke­free and health­ier. Sign up at smoke­­freetxt.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, to­bacco use in the United States causes about 443,000 deaths each year — or nearly one in every five deaths in this coun­try. Smok­ers die an av­er­age of 13 years sooner than their non­smok­ing coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

And the ben­e­fits of quit­ting be­gin al­most im­me­di­ately, rip­pling into other healthy mile­stones, the CDC says. Just 20 min­utes af­ter your last cig­a­rette, your heart rate and blood pres­sure drop. Within 12 hours, the blood­stream’s car­bon monox­ide level dips into the nor­mal range. Af­ter three months, cir­cu­la­tion and lung func­tion im­prove. Breath­ing is eas­ier and smoker’s cough abates af­ter nine months, the CDC says.

Af­ter a smoke-free year, the risk of coro­nary trou­ble is cut in half. Af­ter five years, the risk of can­cer of the mouth, throat, esoph­a­gus and blad­der are re­duced by half. Af­ter 10 years, the chance of lung can­cer has been cut in half. Fi­nally, if a smoker re­mains an ex-smoker for 15 years, the risk of coro­nary dis­ease is the same as that of a per­son who never smoked.

But of course, quit­ting smok­ing is hard. It’s a chem­i­cal ad­dic­tion to nico­tine, and like mak­ing any other life­style change, is not to be taken lightly. And ev­ery­one be­hind the Great Amer­i­can Smoke­out knows that. It’s all de­signed to in­form and help, not to judge or preach.

So to­mor­row, be a quit­ter for a day. Maybe it’s a habit that will stick.

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