The Great American Smoke-out: Why it's so difficult to quit (but you can do it!)

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Today is the "great American Smoke-Out", a day set aside each year by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to quit for 24 hours and consider giving up tobacco for good. If you're a smoker who has tried to quit before, but did not succeed, you are not alone. To win that battle, experts say, you need a strategy. And The American Lung Association has plenty of them.  "It causes lung cancer. It causes heart disease including heart attacks and strokes" said Kathy Drea, VP of  Advocacy at the American Lung Association of Central Illinois. "Of course it causes emphysema. We know now that it's linked to breast cancer. There's a link to colon cancer" she added, saying the list goes on and on.

Drea says smoking causes Illinois taxpayers big money. "Almost 2-Billion dollars is spent every year treating Medicaid recipients with tobacco related diseases. ALMOST 2-BILLION DOLLARS!" she said. Plus, the cost to smoke cigarettes today is outrageous. Depending on where you buy them, one pack can cost as much as eleven dollars. Add to that the fact that smokers often pay much higher insurance premiums. And if you're a smoker and your medical bills aren't sky high "they WILL be" Drea said. "Almost every disease that you could possibly have there's a link to smoking somehow. WHY are people still smoking?"

That's a question many people, including smokers themselves, often ask. But before you judge anyone, know this: today's cigarettes contain 500 to 600 different chemicals, including ammonia, And Michael Mark, who runs the ALA Tobacco Quit-line in Springfield, says it's not the same cigarette sold 10 or 20 years ago. "That changes the acidic balance of the cigarette, making it easier for the nicotine to get to your blood stream and to your brain very fast, very quick" he says, adding that today's cigarette addictions are stronger than ever. 

There are a number of products on the market proven to help smokers quit, and certified professionals at the Quit-line say any one of them can help smokers snuff out their habit for good. But Mark says there is only so much nicotine that can legally be put into products like gum, lozenges or patches you wear on your skin. So if you're a pack a day smoker or more, these products will be less effective because you're habit has you consumer more nicotine than they can provide. Add it up, Mark says. "Two mg of nicotine per cigarette? They're consuming 40 mg of nicotine per day. And the strongest patch on the market has 21 mg of nicotine" he said. That means you would do better if you first slowly wean down the number of cigarettes you smoke per day. 

The certified medical professionals who run the ALA Tobacco Quit-line say what works for one person might now work for another. And nearly every regular smoker fails to quit a number of time before they succeed. Bernadette McCoy is one of those certified cessation professionals. "one cigarette down every other day is customary. But some people can't do that. That's too much for them." She should know. Not only does she counsel people who call the Quit-line, she was a smoker herself for 32 years. Her husband was too. Now they are both smoke free and they both went cold turkey, ironically. McCoy says you CAN do it alone. But you'll probably be more successful if you arm yourself with a lot of knowledge. And organizations like The American Lung Association and The American Cancer society provide a lot of information and support for free. 

"This isn't just something you take a pill and it goes away" Mark told WAND News. "There's a huge physical addiction and a psychological addiction. You've got to deal with them both to be successful."
McCoy says "as long as they continue to call for support and guidance then I'll work with them as long as I need to and in whatever fashion I need to."

For links to get help click on "home" on this website, then click on "Sitewatch" near the top right of the home page. 

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