Great American Smokeout set Thursday
By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Nov. 17, 2002
Thursday is the Great American Smokeout.
The annual awareness campaign was started by the American Cancer Society in 1977 to educate the public on the health risks associated with tobacco use.
Betty Lou Jones, of Meridian, a longtime volunteer with the American Cancer Society, was a guest of The Meridian Star's editorial board this week.
Jones discussed the risks of using tobacco, the advantages of quitting, and ways the American Cancer Society can help people who want to stop using tobacco.
The Meridian Star: What led to the first Great American Smokeout 25 years ago?
Jones: The Great American Smokeout is designed to create awareness with the public that you should stop or you should at least cut back smoking.
The American Cancer Society was the first organization to identify the link between cigarette smoking and cancer back in the 1940s or 1950s. They have been asking the public to protect themselves by not using tobacco products since that time. That includes smokeless tobacco and all the other products.
The Star: What risks do smokers take with their health?
Jones: It has definitely been proven that tobacco products not only increase your chances of getting cancer, but heart disease. With all my years of working with the American Cancer Society I guess the one thing that has made the largest impact on me is when I heard an oncologist say that 30 percent of all cancers wouldn't happen if nobody smoked. We're not just talking about lung cancer and throat cancer, we're also talking about breast cancer and colon cancer and prostate cancer because smoking and the carcinogens in cigarettes is what causes cancer in a lot of cases.
There are cases where people get lung cancer and never smoked, but they can trace back to a time when they lived with someone who smoked or were exposed to it at work.
The Star: With all the information about the dangers of smoking, why do people still take up the habit?
Jones: If nobody smoked now I think it would be a whole lot easier to teach children not to smoke, but when you have tobacco products being marketed to them, they are faced with the temptation. One of the things that is interesting is that the influence we have on other people is most important among our own families. It's sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers and grandparents and grandchildren who cause each other not to smoke, to either stop or to not start. But all you have to do is look around and you see families who smoke and families who condone it.
The Star: Does the Great American Smokeout inspire many smokers to quit?
Jones: You might want to determine on Nov. 21 that you want to quit, then plan out a good time in your life when you can get enrolled in a program to help you quit. You don't want to set yourself up to fail.
I want to encourage anyone who smokes to not smoke on Nov. 21 or to at least cut back that day at least as a symbol of the fact you recognize what you are doing. Most everybody I know who smokes would like to quit.
The Star: What can smokers expect if they quit?
Jones: Smoking is physically addictive but it is also emotionally addictive. If you stop smoking the nicotine flushes out of your system, especially if you drink a lot of fruit juice and water, within 24 to 72 hours. After that, you're not having so much the physical addiction as the emotional addiction, or just the habit that remains.
I do not discount the fact that stopping smoking is probably one of the hardest things in the world for anybody to do. Some people never lose the desire to smoke. I have friends who have stopped smoking and they say even though they are glad they quit, they wanted to quit, their health is better, they feel better, and their family is happy, but they still could smoke a cigarette a mile long.
The Star: What help is there for people who want to quit using tobacco products?
Jones: It's great to join a group. Try to find a stop smoking class. But if you have a friend or family member and the two of you decide to stop smoking and you agree to be buddies for each other that's one of the most positive things you can do because you can call that person when you want to smoke and they will talk you out of it or they'll call you and you talk them out of it.
You can call the American Cancer Society's Quitline at 1-800-227-2345. They can give you information about smoking cessation classes offered in your area and provide information about over the counter prescriptions that can help tobacco users quit.