Millions set to ‘smoke out’

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today across the U.S., thousands of smokers will try to kick the habit for just one day as a part of the “Great American Smokeout.”

The American Cancer Society began the annual event 33 years ago as a national campaign to promote a smoke-free lifestyle. The hope is that smokers who go one day without smoking will eventually be able to quit for good.

Dr. Robert Garver Jr., a physician with SEC Lung who specializes in internal medicine including pulmonary disease, said quitting smoking has a number of positive health benefits.

“There are many hazards to smoking,” he said. “There’s a greatly increased risk of cancer, not only in the lungs, but also in the colon, bladder or kidneys. There’s also an increased risk of coronary artery disease, strokes, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.”

However, Garver also acknowledged that it is not always easy for smokers to just quit the habit.

“Obviously, nicotine is a highly addictive chemical,” he said. “But more than that, sometimes even just the act of smoking becomes a highly-engrained part of a person’s behavior. Most smokers enjoy the effects of nicotine, which does have some truly good effects — for example, it improves cognitive ability while decreasing anxiety.”

Also, Garver admitted it can be difficult for someone to quit smoking if friends and family members continue to participate in the habit.

“In the early stages of smoking cessation, just the smell of the smoke can ignite a very strong craving and reduce the likelihood of success,” he said.

The Great American Smokeout’s Web site ( contains several tips and tool toward allowing smokers to quit the habit. In the first Great American Smokeout held in California in 1976, more than 1 million people quit smoking for the day.

According to the American Cancer Society, some important facts about tobacco use include:

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.

Cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 premature deaths — including 49,400 non-smokers.

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.

Great progress is being made in reducing tobacco use in the U.S., with adult smoking rates in 2007 declining among all adults to 19.8 percent.