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Great American Smoke-Out

11/8/2021 9:00:00 AM
Written By:
Robert Hammack, Health Promotion Specialist-Colonial Behavioral Health

A surprisingly difficult aspect of trying to quit cigarettes (or change any type of unhealthy habit) is finding the time to begin. You could start right now, but you just bought a pack of cigarettes and throwing them away would be “wasteful”. You could start on Sunday, but that’s still the weekend and you want to enjoy your time off. You decide to start Monday, making the first day of the work week the first day you quit to make it easy to keep track of the days. But when Monday comes and goes, and you’re still smoking at the end of the day. You tell yourself it’s because it was a stressful day at work, and you’ll start next week. Or next month. Better yet, why not start at the beginning of the year? After all, don’t you deserve one last hoorah before you quit so you can get it out of your system?

This is the type of thinking that millions of people go through every day in an honest effort to better their lives, and not just with cigarettes or vaping products. Quitting is difficult, and it can be a little scary to imagine a life lived without something you enjoy. Not only do you need to overcome the physically addictive effects of nicotine, but you also need to change your thought processes, your daily schedule, and anything else that is tied to that unhealthy habit. It’s no wonder then that it can take an average of 30 attempts to quit cigarettes. But it is possible. In fact, the CDC measured that 2.9 million Americans successfully quit cigarettes in 2018 alone.

The Great American Smokeout started in the 1970s in Massachusetts with an idea to not smoke for one day. Now hosted by the American Cancer Society, it has evolved over the decades into a national challenge for all smokers not to smoke for 24 hours. The hope is that smokers will use this break to learn lessons that will help their next attempt to quit easier.

So how can you make your quitting attempt easier?

  • Recognize your triggers. Stress, habit, and social situations can all make someone want to smoke. Recognizing your personal triggers is the first step to finding ways to moderate their effects on your life.
  • Make a support network before you start your attempt. Quitting is tough enough. Don’t make it even harder by trying to quit alone. Find friends and family that can help keep you on track and hold you accountable.
  • Use technology to help. Hotlines like 1-800-QUIT-NOW and smartphone apps like quickSTART are services that offer personal coaching and plans to help you quit.

The longer you go without smoking, you’ll start to notice some positive effects from not smoking cigarettes. One of the first things that you’ll notice is you won’t have to clear your throat as often, your breathing will be easier, and you can taste and smell better. Other benefits are less noticeable, but still important:

  • After 1 year: your risk of cardiovascular illness drops
  • 2-5 years: your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker
  • 5 years: your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by 50%
  • 10 years: your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by 50%

If you are looking to start quitting cigarettes, you can join millions of Americans for this year’s Great American Smokeout on November 18, 2021. For more information and tools on how to quit smoking go to:

Robert Hammack works in Prevention Services at Colonial Behavioral Health. He is the point of contact for the Historic Triangle Drug Prevention Coalition Youth-Sub Committee. 

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