Gear up for the Great American Smokeout

“Liz” hadn’t known what to say when the doctor told her why she was short of breath. She had been a smoker for a very long time when she stopped smoking 15 years ago.

She remembers how she used to get into her car and go anywhere she wanted or needed to go. She scrubbed down the walls in her house, raised her family, and was very independent. But today she can’t walk the 10 steps from her bed to the bathroom without becoming severely winded. Sometimes she gets breathless just from talking. She has something called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. She was diagnosed nearly two years ago. There is no cure. It is found mostly in smokers, according to published information.

Her son has been a big help to her. He says, though, he’ll be glad when she gets better. But she has a progressive lung disease, she said. This isn’t going to get better. There are still so many things she wants to do.

It can be argued that everyone has to die from something. Anyone with a lung ailment, though, can tell you what it’s like to not be able to get your breath, to become winded climbing a set of stairs and feel the terror of not being able to take the next breath or keep up with everyone else on an outing with family or friends.

It used to be that nobody realized how bad smoking is for humans. The National Institutes of Health advises, “We now know that nicotine is powerfully addictive and that cigarette smoking is the greatest preventable cause of premature death in the United States.”

NIH shares some statistics about cigarette smoking: one in five U.S. deaths annually are attributed to smoking; 87 percent of lung cancer deaths and at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Smoking affects every organ of the body.

Persons who quit smoking under the age of 50 reduce by half their risk of dying in the next 15 years from tobacco-related illness. However, relapse is high with 75-80 percent who try to quit beginning to smoke again within six months. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug.

“Long term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction, which involves withdrawal symptoms when not smoking and difficulty adhering to the resolution to quit,” according to

The cigarette smoke is inhaled into the lungs and absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, quickly delivered to the brain where nicotine levels peak in 10 seconds. The effects are just as quickly gone. “The rapid cycle causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms.”

And third hand smoke – the residue that clings to walls, ceilings, carpets – is an issue for children who crawl on the floors and climb on furniture, according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

There are at least 69 carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in tobacco smoke. Smoking causes bronchitis and emphysema, worsens asthma symptoms in adults and children, and COPD (which does not repair over time). It causes coronary heart disease and also is linked to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and impaired immune function, according to NIDA.

These are not scare tactics to terrorize you into quitting smoking. Rather, the motive is to encourage you to live a healthy life. The American Cancer Society is getting ready for the Great American Smokeout which is Nov. 15 this year. For more information for assistance in planning your smoke-free future, contact them.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.