Kick the habit during Annual Day of Action

OSCEOLA COUNTY — For millions of Americans who use tobacco, Nov. 24 is a day full of hope.

It’s not related to Thanksgiving, but it can become a day of thanks. Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, marks the 37th annual “Great American Smokeout” presented by the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Each year, since 1976, this day has been a chance for millions of tobacco users and their families to support each other in an attempt to go tobacco free for 24 hours.

The third Thursday of November is the day smokers try to quit for 24 hours straight or to get together with family and friends to make a plan to quit in the future. By quitting, even for one day, smokers take a step towards a healthier life — one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.

Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and early death in the United States. About 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, which is nearly one out of every five adults. In addition, there are also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the United States, 2.2 million pipe smokers, and 8.9 million who use spit tobacco or “smokeless” e-cigs. All these are very common among Americans under the age of 20. Nearly one out of every three male high school students and nearly one out of every five female high school students use some type of tobacco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us most tobacco users begin smoking or chewing before the age of 19, and that 60 percent of those now using tobacco actually want to quit. However, many of them feel that it’s too late or too hard to stop.

But not everyone can do it all by themselves. It takes willpower and support to quit. The American Cancer Society (ACS) asks tobacco users to work with family and friends to help them kick the habit one day at a time. Quitting is tough, and they urge tobacco users to use the “Great American Smokeout” as a chance to talk and plan on how to quit for good.

Some ideas on how families can work together are walking or bicycling, getting involved in group activities away from home to keep your mind occupied, and understanding what your “triggers” are. Triggers can be things around you that remind you or make it easier for you to smoke. Take a look at your daily habits like when you smoke, where you light up and who you smoke with and then try to change those habits. Even cutting down on the number of cigarettes smoked in a day is a victory. The ACS website, cancer.org, offers more information and tools, like the Cigarette Cost Calculator, to help make quitting more personal.

Even a short-term move away from tobacco can bring big results. Cutting down on the number of daily cigarettes can improve a person’s senses of smell and taste overnight. And a small victory like that can go a long way in giving a real sense of success to many tobacco users.

Studies show if a tobacco-user can go 24 hours without using, they are more open to the idea of giving up tobacco, perhaps for an even longer period of time. Sometimes, small steps forward can work better than traditional “all or nothing” attempts. Not everyone can just give up tobacco all at once. People need a plan and help from those closest to them. Remember, with the Smokeout taking place so close to Thanksgiving, it can give “cold turkey” a whole new meaning.

For personal advice, local resources, and one-on-one counseling, try calling the Michigan Quit Now help line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Or visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org.