According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet more than 46 million Americans still smoke. The ACS’s 36th Great American Smokeout, taking place this Thursday, is a national movement encouraging smokers to stop.
“The battle has been won in awareness of the dangers,” says Dr. Thomas J. Glynn, M.A., M.S., Ph.D., the ACS’s director of cancer science, trends and international cancer control. “But most people think that’s only [with regards to] lung cancer. There’s more tobacco-caused heart disease than lung cancer. It also contributes to many other cancers, from esophageal to colorectal.”
And people still smoke, because tobacco's nicotine is powerfully addicting — though it's not as harmful when independent of cigarettes, which is why nicotine patches and gums are used to quit smoking.
“[Nicotine] is unbelievably addictive,” says Glynn. “It’s not easy to quit. It takes the majority of people several attempts before they stop for good.”
Dr. Glynn’s cessation tips
Write down the reasons why you want to stop. Examine your motivation. Long-term quitters are motivated. If you slip, read them and remind yourself.
Rally support from family, friends and co-workers. And use counseling or a quitting hotline, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or the ACS’s 1-800-227-2345.
Use a substitute. Try to choose something healthy — munch on an apple rather than a candy bar. Most people put on five to eight pounds in weight when they quit smoking. That can be dealt with later.