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Great American Smokeout is Thursday
Health advice
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Tomorrow is the Great American Smokeout. The day was introduced and became a yearly event once the American Cancer Society became aware of the correlation between tobacco and cancer.
Other health organizations and agencies joined ACS in this promotion for the same reason, but also because they recognized the tremendously harmful impact tobacco use had on other diseases and health issues.
The Smokeout encourages smokers to quit cigarettes for at least one day in hopes they will quit forever and, historically, more people quit smoking on this day than any other day of the year.  
This is a very important day to promote for a variety of reasons — the majority of which deal with the health of our country, but other factors include the economic costs of supporting the habit (estimated to be about $3,391 or more per smoker each year). We won’t mention the billions of dollars spent in healthcare costs related to tobacco use or the millions of dollars in lost workdays.
In 1982 — and thereafter — a U.S. Surgeon General’s report said “Cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the United States.” This statement is as true today as it was then, but today we also know that tobacco use is the number one cause of premature death, causing approximately 438,000 deaths every year or about one in five people.
Each year, more Americans are killed by cigarettes than by alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs. And because cigarette smoking and tobacco use is an acquired behavior we know that smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in our society.
Smoking is also a major cause of heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema, stroke and other chronic diseases. It contributes to the severity of colds, pneumonia and asthma. Tobacco use has a damaging affect on women’s health and is associated with increased risk of miscarriage, pre-term delivery, stillbirth, and infant death, and is a cause of low birth weight in infants. Furthermore, secondhand smoke from cigarettes has a harmful health effect on everyone exposed to the smoke.
In the United States approximately 20 percent of adults, 23 percent of high school students and 8 percent of middle school students smoke. Most adult smokers (around 90 percent) started before the age of 19. The younger someone starts smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted.
Nicotine, another ingredient in tobacco, does not cause cancer, but it keeps many people addicted to tobacco use. Addiction is characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking or use of a substance despite harmful consequences and it is often accompanied by adverse physical and psychological dependence on the substance. This dependence keeps the smoker in harm’s way — exposed to destructive chemicals and at risk for multiple health problems. As Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
As well as the health changes we can’t see until it’s too late, smoking can make obvious changes to a person’s appearance. You can recognize a smoker by:  
• Premature wrinkling of the skin
• Bad breath
• Stained teeth
• Gum disease
• Bad smelling clothes and hair
• Yellow fingernails
Don’t advertise smoking with your appearance or remain in harm’s way! Think about what smoking will do to you and then think about what quitting can mean to you and all those you love and work with. Quit for the day on Nov. 18 and then try not smoking on Nov. 19, Nov. 20 and each day thereafter.

Ratcliffe is a consultant with the Georgia Coastal Public Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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