For 34 years the American Cancer Society has designated the third Thursday in November as the Great American Smokeout. This Nov. 19, tobacco users are encouraged to either make a plan to quit or to plan in advance to quit using tobacco on that day.
For the second year in a row, Teens Against Tobacco Use, with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, are facilitating a poster display with more than 200 posters drawn by local elementary school children.
The topic for the posters is "Why people should not smoke ... ," and the posters will be displayed at both the Nugget and Mendenhall Malls with informational tables stocked with tobacco cessation resources.
Although nationwide smoking rates have declined in the last several years, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, killing 443,000 people a year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among smokers, as well as chronic long-term diseases such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tobacco use causes several types of cancer as well, with lung cancer being the most prevalent.
While everyone knows the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco, not everyone understands the serious nature of nicotine addiction. Nicotine is one of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from and the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal are what cause most tobacco users to keep using or relapse after a quit attempt. Ironically, nicotine itself, while not completely harmless, does not cause fatal diseases. Therefore, the use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been used for years to lessen the effects of withdrawal symptoms.
Nationwide surveys show that 75 percent of tobacco users want to quit, and that most have already tried to quit unsuccessfully. However, cessation experts encourage tobacco users, "Don't quit quitting!" Most successful quitters have had several unsuccessful quit attempts before they quit for good. The exciting news is that the science of tobacco cessation has grown and nowadays there are many effective tools available to assist the tobacco user in quitting.
Trying to quit tobacco cold turkey may work for a few, but has the lowest success rate of all the cessation methods. Combining nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) with a smoking cessation program designed to address the psychological aspects of withdrawal can double the chances for success.
There are now five different types of nicotine replacement therapy, three over-the-counter products and two available by prescription. Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are available without prescription, while the nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhaler require a prescription from a health care provider. There are also two anti-craving medications available by prescription, Zyban and Chantix.
Children and other family members can provide helpful motivation and assistance to the tobacco user who wishes to quit. By educating themselves about the nature of tobacco addiction and the cessation tools available, and providing a positive support system, loved ones can help the tobacco user to quit.
The Alaska Tobacco Quit Line, 800-784-8669 (800-QUIT-NOW), is a free tobacco cessation service that provides trained tobacco treatment specialists and a free two month supply of nicotine patches. Online cessation resources include the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program at www.lungusa.org or www.becomeanex.org.
For local cessation services call SEARHC at 364-4440, Bartlett Regional Hospital at 796-8900 or talk to your health care provider. Help is readily available - don't quit quitting!
Wendy Hamilton is the tobacco program manager for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.