We're going to throw some numbers out, so wrap your mind around these, if you can - an estimated 58.5 million of U.S. adults were smokers in 2012, and of those, 41.6 million smoked every day.
We offer those statistics because Thursday is the 38th-annual Great American Smokeout - a day set aside each year dedicated to helping smokers of all ages to quit smoking. It's a day to put down those cigarettes, cigars and pipes, or don't put a pinch between your cheek and gums.
Here are some other alarming statistics: Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., yet nearly one in every five adults smokes.
It's not so hard to think about quitting smoking if you consider the alternatives: Lung cancer, lip cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat and digestive tract.
The American Cancer Society has a list of benefits of ending smoking, including:
- A drop in carbon monoxide levels in the blood to normal in 12 hours.
- An increase in lung function within three months.
- A reduction in coughing and shortness of breath and a gain in the body's natural defenses against lung infections within nine months.
- In a year, the risk of coronary heart disease is dropped to half that of a smoker.
If the health statistics aren't enough, calculate the cost of your particular form of tobacco on your weekly, monthly and annual budget. We're sure a savings will be found.
The cancer society has scheduled the smokeout for the third Thursday of November for decades, dating back to an event in California in 1974.
The day isn't just about struggling through a single-day commitment to go tobacco free. It's about learning, and about finding and using tools to reduce and eventually end personal tobacco use. If cold turkey quitting is too much for you, consider the availability of counseling, nicotine replacement products, group support, telephone hotline support, guidebooks and encouragement, including nagging, from friends and family.
Thursday is about making a commitment. Trying to stay away from tobacco for a day is the first step on what is a quick road to a healthier lifestyle. When you're breathing better, when your heart is functioning better, you can be more active, which puts you in better health overall, which leads to a change in mood.
Please, for your own health, commit to quit this year. Just take it one step at a time.