On November 15th the American Cancer Society will once again promote the Great American Smokeout. For more than 50 years, the organization has hosted this event on the third Thursday of November as an opportunity for smokers to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives – not just for a day, but year round. The event is designed to create 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.
The event challenges people to stop smoking while helping people learn about the many tools they can use to help them quit and stay quit!
Officials recognize that quitting smoking is not an easy task and requires time and a plan. They note, “you don’t have to stop smoking in one day. Start with day one.” The day joins thousands of smokers across the country in taking the step towards a healthier life and reducing cancer risk, according to the organization’s website.
Why is this such an important goal?
- According to the organization, nearly 38 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world.
- Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every ear or about 1 in 5 deaths.
- More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.
Additionally, the smoker isn’t the only one subject to the negative health risks associated with the habit. In a previous Healthy Tip Tuesday article featuring Trinity Hospital Twin City’s Outreach Coordinator and Certified Respiratory Therapist, Erica Mesler, smokers put their loved ones at risk with each puff. Secondhand smoke “can be life-threatening,” explained Mesler. By inhaling second-hand smoke, children, for example, can experience a number of added health concerns. It affects the immune system causing them to get sick more often; creates more lung infections like bronchitis and pneumonia; causes them to cough and wheeze or have shortness of breath; increases the risk for more ear infections; can trigger asthma attacks, make asthma worse, or even cause new cases of asthma in children who didn’t have any symptoms before. Additionally, secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for babies and has even been linked to certain cancers in ids like lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer, and brain tumors.
Then, to add to the concern, there is such a thing called thirdhand smoke! Mesler explained that it is “the term used to describe the particle and gases that are left over after a cigarette has been distinguished. So, they can virtually land and remain on pretty much any surface.”
Toxins from smoking can remain on clothes, in a person’s hair, on their hands, on furniture and even flooring. “Carpeting for example, where people put their infants and children to play, it’s nearly impossible to get the toxins out,” adds Mesler. “A lot of times you have to completely remove the carpet.”
Third-hand smoke has additional health risks for kids as well. It can interfere with healing wounds; cause molecular changes in cells, which can lead to insulin resistance (a precursor for diabetes), increase the risk of developing cancer, cause fatty liver disease and more.
So, when you choose to smoke, it’s not just your future health you are affecting, but everyone else’s around you!
How can quitting make a difference?
According to the American Cancer Society, when a smoker chooses to quit the benefits begin almost immediately:
20 minutes after quitting
|Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.|
12 hours after quitting
|The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.|
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting
|Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.|
1 to 9 months after quitting
|Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs (called cilia) start to regain normal function in your lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.|
1 year after quitting
|The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. Your heart attack risk drops dramatically.|
5 years after quitting
|Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Your stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2 to 5 years.|
10 years after quitting
|Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.|
15 years after quitting
|Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.|
Also, even earlier differences noticed include:
- Food tastes better.
- Your sense of smell returns to normal.
- Your breath, hair, and clothes smell better.
- Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- Ordinary activities leave you less out of breath (for example, climbing stairs or light housework).
- You can be in smoke-free buildings without having to go outside to smoke.