Today is the Great American Smokeout. Are you ready to make a plan to quit?

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The Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21, which is Thursday, is one day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. The journey may be difficult, but it’s worth it. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. In Idaho, smoking kills more people than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. More than 1,800 Idahoans die from smoking-related diseases annually, which is an average of four people per day. Quitting tobacco is the best decision you can make for your immediate health and for the rest of your life.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately after you stop. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, the extra risk of a heart attack you’ve gained from smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years of being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.

What are some of the best methods to help a person quit?

Traditional nicotine replacement therapy has been scientifically proven to be an effective intervention. NRT, as it is called, helps a person kick the habit in a gradual, controlled way.

What are the benefits to a smoker’s family and friends when they quit?

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, including 50 known cancer-causing chemicals. Infants and children of parents who smoke are more likely to have ear infections and asthma, as well as more frequent coughs and illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and croup. Secondhand smoke also increases an infant’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Everyone who lives with a smoker has a 20 percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who don’t live with a smoker.

There’s also a risk to your pets when you smoke. Studies have found that environmental exposure to tobacco smoke may cause an increased risk of cancer in the noses and sinuses of dogs, particularly those with longer snouts. Also, pet cats living in smoking households are more than twice as likely to develop cancer compared to cats in nonsmoking households.

Where can a person go to get help?

Idahoans who want to quit can call 1-800-QuitNow to talk to a professional cessation coach or sign up online at ProjectFilter.org. When you sign up or call, a quit coach will help tailor a program that is best for you. You can receive up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, mailed directly to your home, as part of your personalized quitting plan. You’ll also find lots of resources when you sign up, including eCoach forums and chats, and expert advice. The Idaho Careline, which you can reach by calling 2-1-1 anywhere in the state of Idaho, also has information about local programs to help you quit.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is from the Nov. 19 segment.) 

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