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Great American Smokeout: It's always a good day to quit smoking


November 27, 2018

For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity for smokers to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives — not just for a day, but all year round. The Great American Smokeout provides an opportunity for individuals, community groups, businesses, health care providers, and others to encourage people to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and initiate a smoking cessation plan on the day of the event.

According to The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tobacco use exacts a heavy toll. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, claiming the lives of more than 480,000 adults in the United States each year, along with an estimated 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure. Currently, 16 million people are suffering from smoking-caused illnesses.

Closer to home, smoking has a significant impact on our state. 1,600 Montanans die each year from their own smoking. 19,000 Montana kids alive today will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. Annual health care costs in Montana directly caused by smoking total $440 million, with Medicaid costs caused by smoking totaling $81 million. These do not include health costs caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, smoking-caused fires, smokeless tobacco use or cigar and pipe smoking.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking can lead to a variety of respiratory complications and chronic diseases including asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, coronary heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, peripheral artery disease and cancer of the mouth and throat, bladder, stomach, cervix, kidneys and pancreas. A smoker’s lifespan is about 14 years shorter than a nonsmoker’s.

The 42nd Annual Great American Smokeout was recently observed, but the message it delivered just as important on any day of the year: It is never too late to quit. Smokers can gain health benefits by giving up the habit, whether you’re an occasional smoker or have a lifelong heavy habit.

Montana Quit Line is free

Kicking the habit isn’t easy, but there are resources to help such as the Montana Tobacco Quit Line. Through this free service, you will be guided into a program that will best fit your individual needs. The Montana Tobacco Quit Line offers specialized counseling for a broad spectrum of tobacco users, including pregnant smokers, teen tobacco users, and spit tobacco users.

Montana Tobacco Quit Line services include:

• A free personalized quit plan.

• Five free pro-active cessation coaching sessions.

• Eight weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy — NRT — including gum, patches or lozenges. Callers who enroll in Quit Line services may be eligible for up to 8 weeks of free NRT.

• Chantix at reduced cost (for one month).

• Bupropion at reduced cost — $5 co-pay per month for three months.

• Trained staff that offers culturally appropriate services for American Indians. Direct line, call toll free 1-855-372-0037.

• Pregnancy and postpartum program offers special services to women who enroll while they are pregnant. Call 1-800-Quit Now.

• People younger than 18 are welcome to call for free coaching, however, the FDA has not approved NRT use for those younger than 18. Visit teen.smokefree.gov. for more assistance.

Benefits from quitting are almost immediate

According to the American Cancer Society, as soon as you quit, a series of changes in your body occur almost instantaneously, and the benefits continue the longer you remain a nonsmoker.

• 20 minutes after quitting: Heart rate drops.

• 12 hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

• Two weeks to three months after quitting: Heart attack risk begins to drop. Lung function begins to improve.

• One to nine months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

• One year after quitting: The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

• Five years after quitting: The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

• 0 years after quitting: Lung cancer death rate is about half that of person who still smokes. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.

• 15 years after quitting: Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.

Studies have shown that quitting at about age 30 reduces the chance of dying from smoking-related diseases by more than 90 percent, by age 50 reduces their risk of dying prematurely by 50 percent. Even people who quit at age 60 or older can live longer than those who continue to smoke.

The Great American Smokeout provides a great opportunity to make your plan to quit. The Montana Quit Line can help you pick a quit date that is best for you. It is a free service, it is open seven days a week, and can be reached by calling toll-free 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

For you, your family and your loved ones, make the call today.


Kimberly Larson, BS, CPH, is lead local health official and public health director in Hill County.


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