Yesterday, November 15, was The Great American Smokeout, and we FAILED to remind you! Sponsored by the American Cancer Society since 1977, Great American Smokeout has encouraged tobacco smokers and chewers to quit for the day, and hopefully, forever. The Smokeout draws attention to deaths and health damage caused by smoking. It has also contributed to bans on smoking in workplaces and restaurants, increased taxes on cigarettes, limitations on cigarette promotions in the media, attempts to discourage teen smoking, and other countless actions to reduce tobacco use.
By quitting even for one day smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life- one that can lead to reducing cancer risk. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes; that’s almost 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco. According to the CDC, 440,000 deaths and $193 billion in health care costs and lost production occur annually.
Here are some facts from the U.S. Surgeon General and American Cancer Society that point out the benefits of quitting:
- Your heart rate and blood pressure drop 20 minutes after quitting.
- Your circulation improves and your lung function increases within 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting.
- The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal 12 hours after quitting.
- One to nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease; normal function in the lungs is regained, which reduces the risk of infection.
- One year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
- Five years after quitting, the stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
- Ten years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
- Fifteen years after quitting, risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.
Workplaces that make the choice to become smoke-free would see increased productivity, fewer sick days and lower insurance claims by employees. Employers could reward their workers that stop smoking by paying a membership fee to a health club, treat non-smokers to an occasional free breakfast or lunch, or come up with other ideas.
People have the right to choose what to do with their body; however, when facts prove that smoking damages almost every organ in the human body and is linked to at least fifteen different cancers, that should be reason enough for tobacco users to stop and think about it. Besides that, think of how much money could be saved!
We hope that you made that decision on the 15th to start a healthier lifestyle. If you smoke, please don’t smoke in your home or in your car if you have other passengers to consider, especially children. Consider the health benefits as listed above, not to mention creating a safer environment for those non-smokers who have to breathe secondhand smoke!