Thursday, Nov. 21, was the Great American Smokeout.

The American Cancer Society event is designed to help save lives by challenging people to stop using tobacco and informing them of resources available to help them stop smoking.

“Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States, despite a significant decline in the number of people who smoke,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. “Over 16 million Americans have at least one disease caused by smoking. This amounts to $170 billion in direct medical costs that could be saved every year if we could prevent youth from starting to smoke and help every person who smokes to quit.”

There is no getting around the fact that quitting tobacco is difficult.

It is an addiction. According to the CDC, 17.5% of Georgia adults smoked cigarettes in 2017. But seven in 10 smokers across the nation want to quit.

Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support that could include hotlines, quit groups, counseling, nicotine substitutes and prescription medication, according to the American Cancer Society.

The idea for the Great American Smokeout grew from a 1970 event in Randolph, Mass., where Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund, according to the ACS.

In 2012, the FDA published a list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents in tobacco products and tobacco smoke.

There may still be people who doubt the harmful, deadly effects of cigarette smoke.

They are wrong.

Smoking is responsible for nearly one in three cancer deaths, and one in five deaths from all causes, according to the ACS. Another 8.6 million people live with serious illnesses caused by smoking. Strong smoke-free policies, media campaigns and increases in the prices of tobacco products are at least partly credited for these decreases.

From 1965 to today, cigarette smoking among adults in the United States decreased from more than 42 percent to about 18 percent.

Despite the clear facts, the Cancer Society has said about one in five adults smoke cigarettes — more than 43.6 million people.

The American Cancer Society said, “Nearly 15 million people smoke tobacco in cigars or pipes. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. About 87 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 70 percent in women are thought to result from smoking. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx (voice box), mouth, sinuses, pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube) and bladder. It also has been linked to the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary (mucinous), colon/rectum, kidney, stomach and some types of leukemia. Cigars and pipes cause cancers, too.”

Readers can visit www.cancer.org to learn more about quitting smoking, improving health, or getting involved with the Great American Smokeout.

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