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The Great American Smokeout can help you quit for good

If you can quit smoking for a day, you may be able to quit forever. That's the idea behind the annual Great American Smokeout, which is Thursday. The American Cancer Society event draws attention to the dangers of tobacco, which causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States. But lung cancer is only the best known of the many health threats smokers face. About 438,000 Americans die annually of smoking-related causes. That's more deaths than those caused by HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. Nearly 21 percent of adult Americans smoke, a rate that has gone up slightly after years of declining.

Skin health: Smoking prematurely ages the skin. "You don't have to ask women if they smoke; you can see it," said Moffitt Cancer Center's Dr. Lary Robinson.

Heart disease: Smokers are two to four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and 10 times as likely to develop peripheral vascular disease, cutting blood supply to extremities.

Lung cancer: Tobacco causes 90 percent of lung cancers in men, 80 percent in women, but females are more vulnerable. "Women get lung cancer with less tobacco use than men,'' said Robinson. "We are seeing it in young women in their 30s and early 40s."

Stroke: Smoking doubles the risk for stroke.

More cancer risks: Smoking causes cancers of the bladder, mouth, lips, throat (esophagus), larynx, cervix, kidney, pancreas, stomach. Also causes acute myeloid leukemia and increases risk of breast cancer.

Other lung diseases: Smoking causes emphysema, and 90 percent of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease. Smoking also increases the risk of infections like pneumonia, colds and chronic bronchitis.

Bone health: Smoking lowers bone density in postmenopausal women, increasing risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Child health: Children of smokers are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome and asthma.

Ready to quit?

There are five FDA-approved nicotine replacement products: gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler and lozenge; and two non-nicotine medications available by prescription: Zyban and Chantix.

About a third of people who use Chantix to quit are still not smoking after six months, compared with a quarter of people who use other products. But any product works better than placebo or going cold turkey. Counseling also helps, "the more the better,'' says Thomas Brandon, Moffitt Cancer Center's smoking cessation researcher.

Hypnosis and acupuncture are gaining popularity and have helped people, but haven't been as well studied as other methods, according to the American Cancer Society.

Young people don't care much about the effect of smoking on their health, he said. "They are more bothered that it's socially unacceptable, or they smell like an ashtray."

Adults are more motivated by the high cost of cigarettes, he said. At $5 a pack, a pack-a-day habit will cost you $1,825 in a year.

More resources

1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) is a free, phone-based service with educational materials and coaches that can help you quit smoking or chewing tobacco. is the American Cancer Society site, with a guide to the Great American Smokeout and tips to quit. is a federal government site that offers free help to quit.

The Great American Smokeout can help you quit for good 11/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 15, 2009 9:28pm]
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