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The Great American Smokeout

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
The Great American Smokeout

As a general rule, being a quitter is frowned upon. When it comes to smoking cigarettes, however, being a quitter is enthusiastically encouraged because doing so can, literally, be lifesaving.

Anyone who has ever smoked knows how difficult it is to stop. Perhaps that’s why nearly 40-million Americans still smoke cigarettes. As tough as it is to quit, these statistics should provide ample motivation:

  • Tobacco use is the single, largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.
  • On an annual basis, more than 480,000 people nationwide lose their lives as a result of tobacco use, which equates to nearly one in five U.S. deaths. Another 8.6-million Americans live with serious illnesses caused by smoking.

What is the Great American Smokeout?

The Great American Smokeout was launched nationally in 1977. Ever since, on the third Thursday of November each year, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers nationwide to: use the date to create a quitting plan; not smoke for at least that one day; or plan in advance and then quit smoking – for good – starting on that day. This year’s Great American Smokeout takes place on Nov. 16.

Benefits of Quitting

While it’s unquestionably extremely tough to stop smoking, it’s equally true that the benefits are well worth it.

No matter how old you are, or the number of years that you’ve smoked, quitting can help you live a longer, healthier life. People who stop smoking before age 50, for example, cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years by half, compared with those who continue smoking. Ex-smokers also enjoy a higher quality of life; they have fewer illnesses like colds and the flu; lower rates of bronchitis as well as pneumonia; and, generally, feel healthier than people who continue smoking.

Consider this chronological breakdown of benefits:

20 minutes after quitting

Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

12 hours after quitting

The carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.

Two weeks to three months after quitting

Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

One to nine months after quitting

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to manage mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

One year after quitting

The risk of coronary heart disease becomes half that of someone still smoking, and your heart-attack risk drops dramatically.

Five years after quitting

The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. After two to five years, stroke risk can be equal to that of a non-smoker.

10 years after quitting

The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who continues smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas also decreases.

15 years after quitting

The risk of coronary heart disease is equal to that of a non-smoker.

These are just a few of the many benefits of quitting forever. Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of diabetes, improves blood-vessel functioning, as well as functioning of the heart and lungs. Although quitting while you’re younger most significantly reduces your health risks, quitting at any age is a victory that brings with it improved health.