It might seem overwhelming, but if you take it a day at a time, it becomes more manageable.
That’s the idea of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, which takes place this Thursday, Nov. 15.
Smokers are encouraged to avoid cigarettes, tobacco and vaping—which health officials have found to be a not-so-safe alternative to smoking—for a day.
After that, perhaps they would be encouraged to try another day, and then another.
When it comes to West Virginia smokers, there is some good news and some bad news.
The good news: The number of adults who smoke in West Virginia has declined from 28.6 percent in 2011 to 24.8 percent in 2016.
What’s more, health officials attribute this decrease at least in part to teens exposed to anti-smoking programs like RAZE in high school and then aging into adults who didn’t pick up a cigarette habit.
The bad news? West Virginia still has the highest smoking rate in the United States. Kentucky, the commonwealth with whom we often trade this distinction back and forth, is slightly below us at 24.5 percent.
The national average in 2016 was 15.5 percent; 17.5 percent were males and 13.5 percent were females.
Utah comes in with the lowest smoking rate at 8.8 percent, followed by California at 11 percent, the only two states that are under 12 percent.
Most smokers know that it’s not healthy for them, but the extremely addictive quality of tobacco makes it difficult to quit. Here are some fast facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov):
• Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.
• More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
• Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
• Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
And are you a smoker who also has children? Because, as the CDC also notes, secondhand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year. Secondhand smoke causes stroke, lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms and slowed lung growth.
Hopefully, these facts will motivate some smokers to try to quit. There are resources that can help. The West Virginia Tobacco Quitline has enrolled more than 73,000 people for Quitline services since it was started in 2000.
West Virginia's Quitline is free to all state residents over the age of 18. The Quitline offers four proactive coaching calls and unlimited reactive calls. Participants are eligible for eight weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy—patches, gum or lozenges.
And the Great American Smokeout website also offers some tips, both for smokers as well as their families and friends. These include the suggestion to make your home smoke-free and removing all ashtrays and lighters to help a smoker who is trying to quit. More advice can be found here.
Is this the year you quit smoking? If you start on Nov. 15, then by the time the new year rolls around, you might have to think of another resolution to make. And you will begin 2019 feeling better both physically and emotionally.
So on Thursday, give it a try. Just for a day. And then maybe for another …