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Great American Smokeout is November 17
Nov 14, 2011
From Middle Earth Blog
On November 17th, the American Cancer Society is hosting its 36th annual Great American Smokeout. This event encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease
and premature death in the US, yet more than 46 million Americans still
smoke. However, more than half of these smokers have attempted to quit
for at least one day in the past year. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3,000 young people
become regular smokers every day, which means that 1 in 5 teens smoke
cigarettes. The American Lung Association estimates that every minute
four thousand eight hundred teens will take their first drag off a
cigarette. Of those, about two thousand will go on to be chain smokers.
The fact that teen smoking rates are steadily increasing is disturbing.
Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking as teenagers.
For teenagers, it’s important to try to prevent them from even
starting smoking. Here are some ideas for adults to use in preventing
and/or talking to teens about smoking:
- Understand the Attraction. To know what you’re
dealing with, ask a teen how he or she feels about smoking. Ask which of
their friends smoke. Listen closely to their answers so that you can
tailor your prevention efforts to that teen’s particular concerns.
- Once You Start, It’s Hard to Stop. Explain to teens
that nicotine is addictive like any other drug. Most adults who started
smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted. Also explain
that nicotine is not just in cigarettes, but in all tobacco products.
Smokeless tobacco, hookah smoking (smoking tobacco through a water pipe)
and clove cigarettes are common alternatives sometimes touted as safe.
Don’t let your teen be fooled.
- Smoking Affects Health. Almost everyone knows that
smoking causes cancer, emphysema and heart disease, but sometimes it’s
hard for teens to see that far down the road. Try bringing the health
issues home to them with the short-term consequences. First of all,
explain that our body does not need tobacco like it needs food or water,
so the body often goes on the defense when it’s being poisoned,
resulting in many first-time smokers feeling pain or throwing up when
they start. Additionally, smokers will almost immediately see these
effects: bad skin, yellow teeth, bad breath, reduced athletic
performance, and increased risk of colds, flu and other respiratory
- Teach Refusal Skills. Sometimes kids just need to
know how to gracefully get out of a peer pressure situation. Try role
playing scenarios with teens to help them have confidence in saying no.
- Do the Math. Smoking is expensive. Help teens
calculate the weekly, monthly or yearly cost of a pack-a-day smoking
habit. You might compare the cost of smoking with that of electronic
gadgets, clothes or other teen essentials.
- Be A Role Model. Teen smoking is more common among
teens whose parents smoke. If you’re a parent, be your child’s role
model and don’t smoke. Also, be sure to tell your teen that smoking
isn’t allowed. Your disapproval may have more impact than you think.
Teens whose parents set the firmest smoking restrictions tend to smoke
less than do teens whose parents don’t set smoking limits.
Reasons to Quit
Most people know that smoking is bad for them, but quitting is so
hard. Perhaps one of the best ways to fight the addiction is to
thoroughly understand the benefits of quitting. If you know a teen who
is smoking, share some of these facts with them.
- Immediate Benefits. Quitting smoking offers some
rewards right away. You will notice that your breath smells better, you
and your belongings smell better, your teeth get whiter, the yellow
coloring of your fingernails goes away, food tastes better, your sense
of smell returns to normal, and you no longer feel out of breath with
- Benefits Over Time. One of the major
rationalizations that smokers use in not quitting is either that they
have been smoking so long the damage to their health is already done, or
that they haven’t been smoking long enough to really have done any
permanent damage. Both of these ideas are false. Consider these facts
that the American Cancer Society has put together from a variety of
research. After quitting smoking for ONE DAY, your heart rate, blood
pressure, and the carbon monoxide level in your blood all drop to
normal. After a couple of months, your circulation improves and your
lung function increases. One year after quitting, the excess risk of
coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s. After 5
years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder
are cut in half. Your chance of a stroke or of cervical cancer have now
fallen to the same level as a non-smoker. In 10 years, the risk of dying
from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking.
- Long Terms Benefits. Smoking causes so many health
problems, that quitting improves your health dramatically. It reduces
your risk to cancer, emphysema and other chronic lung conditions, heart
disease, and infertility and pregnancy problems. It reduces your risk of
diabetes, depression, and risk of illness to colds, flu and other
respiratory illnesses. Quitting also improves your athletic performance,
circulation, and cognitive ability.
How to Quit
It is very difficult to quit smoking since nicotine is an addictive
drug, but millions of people do it every year and the benefits of
quitting are undeniable. Following are some tips, tools and tricks to
give to any teen that wants to become cigarette free.
- Throw away your cigarettes — all of your
cigarettes. People can’t stop smoking with cigarettes still around to
tempt them. Even toss out that emergency pack you have stashed in the
secret pocket of your backpack. Get rid of your ashtrays and lighters,
too. If you’re going to be a non-smoker, you won’t need these things
- Get support. Tell your family and friends that you
are quitting. Ask them to support you by not smoking around you, not
teasing you, and not offering you cigarettes. Join a support group at
your school or in your community. Find someone you can call for those
times when you feel like you are having a weak moment and might smoke a
cigarette. This person should know that you are trying to quit and can
remind you of all the reasons why you decided to give up cigarettes.
Spend a few days or a week away from your friends who smoke.
- Chew. Cravings only last 15 seconds, so the goal is
to distract yourself when it hits. The act of chewing relieves the
desire for oral stimulation and keeps the mouth busy, as well. Have
mints or gum stashed everywhere so they’re always handy. The taste of
menthol or peppermint makes a smoker’s mouth feel cool, fresh, and
clean, which tricks the brain into feeling less desire for that hot
intake of smoke. Smokers often opt for nicotine gum, but many
stop-smoking experts say a sugarless mint-flavored gum works just as
well or better. Red grapes are another good substitute oral-stimulation
technique because their natural chemicals and antioxidants work to
- Breathe deeply. When you were smoking, you breathed
deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe
deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind
yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an
- Delay. When the urge takes hold of you and you feel
like you are about to light up, tell yourself you must wait 10 minutes.
Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the urge.
- Avoid your triggers. You’re probably aware of the
situations when you tend to smoke, such as after meals, when you’re at
your best friend’s house, while drinking coffee, or as you’re driving.
These situations are your triggers for smoking — it feels automatic to
have a cigarette when you’re in them. Once you’ve figured out your
triggers, try to avoid those situations or have a substitute (mints,
gum, etc.) ready for that time. If you smoke when you drive, get a ride
to school, walk, or take the bus for a few weeks. If you normally smoke
after meals, make it a point to do something else after you eat, like
read or call a friend. Go to non-smoking places with your friends, like
the mall or movies. Don’t drink alcohol since it will likely lower your
willpower and increase your chances of having a cigarette.
- Wash all your clothes. Get rid of the smell of
cigarettes as much as you can by washing all your clothes and having
your coats or sweaters dry-cleaned. If you smoked in your car, clean
that out, too. If your family smokes, ask them to not smoke in your
- Keep yourself busy. The more distracted you are,
the less likely you’ll be to crave cigarettes. Quit on a Monday so that
school will help keep you distracted. Staying active and exercising is
an excellent way to distract yourself, make you feel better, and make
sure you keep your weight down and your energy up, even as you’re
experiencing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Try planning some
activities during the first couple of weeks to take your mind off
- Use a nicotine patch or gum. Not all experts agree
on the usefulness of nicotine substitutes, also called nicotine
replacement therapy, since they don’t break the physical addiction to
smoking. But they can be useful tools in overcoming the psychological
side of the smoking addiction, which is a big part of the equation for
many smokers. Still, experts say, patches and gum should only be used in
combination with counseling or a support group; they’re not likely to
work on their own. There are several different nicotine substitutes, and
a doctor can help you determine which one will work best for you.
Sprays and inhalers are available by prescription only. The patch
requires the least effort on your part, but it doesn’t offer the almost
instantaneous nicotine kick that gum does.
- Reward yourself. Set aside the money you usually
spend on cigarettes. When you have stayed tobacco free for a week, 2
weeks, or a month, buy yourself a treat like a new CD, book, movie, or
Resources to Help Quit Smoking from the American Cancer Society: