Quit smoking

34th Great American Smokeout Is Today

"Less smoking leads to more birthdays." That is the message the American Cancer Society emphasizes throughout the year and especially today, which marks its sponsorship of the 34th Great American Smokeout®, an event designed to encourage smokers to quit the habit. Those who do, ACS notes, will be taking an important step toward a healthier life -- one that can lead to reducing cancer risk and adding to their life expectancy.

According to ACS and the U.S. Surgeon General, the health benefits of quitting smoking start to take effect almost immediately. Twenty minutes after quitting, for example, a former smoker's heart rate and blood pressure typically drops; 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal; and two weeks to three months after quitting, the circulation typically improves and lung function increases.

In addition, ACS notes that people who stop smoking before age 50 can cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit also reduce their risk of lung cancer -- 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's.

“We know that quitting smoking is tough and that most smokers have to try several times before quitting for good,” said Alan G. Thorson, M.D., FACS, national volunteer president for the American Cancer Society. "We hope that smokers will use the Great American Smokeout to map out a course of action that will help them to quit, and in turn to stay well and celebrate more birthdays.”

ACS offers a variety of resources ranging from online tips and tools to personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists. The Great American Smokeout Web site -- www.cancer.org/GreatAmericans -- contains user-friendly tips and tools toward a smoke-free life. In addition to tip sheets and calculators, the site also offers downloadable desktop helpers to assist with planning to quit and succeeding in staying tobacco-free. The Quit Clock allows users to pick a quit day within 30 days, then counts down the selected day with tips for each day; and the Craving Stopper is designed to help smokers beat cravings by offering a fun distraction.

The society notes that "great progress" is being made in reducing tobacco use in the United States, with adult smoking rates in 2007 declining among all adults to 19.8 percent. The ACS Web site offers a plethora of facts about tobacco use, such as the following:

  • Cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 premature deaths – including 49,400 in nonsmokers.
  • Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States
  • Thirty percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, can be attributed to tobacco.
  • Smoking also accounts for $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses.

ACS created the trademarked concept for and held its first Great American Smokeout in 1976 as a way to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for a day. One million people quit smoking for a day at the 1976 event in California. The Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to commit to making a long-term plan to quit smoking for good.

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