Thursday, November 19, 2015

Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout (American Cancer Society) is held on the third Thursday of November annually.  I don't think that the day gets the recognition or participation it deserves.  The point of the day is to convince smokers that if they can quit for one day, they can see that they can quit permanently.

Oh, if it were only that easy!  Adult smokers I know tell me that quitting tobacco is the hardest thing they have ever done (or tried to do).  Yes, I have known smokers  who just love to smoke and don't ever want to quit.  They also have convinced themselves that none of the really terrible diseases -- heart disease, emphysema, lung cancer, throat cancer, for example -- will happen to them.

I've had young smokers point to their 80-something grandparents who are still happily smoking.  And, it's true -- not all smokers die as a result of their smoking.  But, the reality is that smoking is akin to Russian Roulette.  Maybe smokers will dodge the bullet -- but, more likely, they won't.

I have become increasingly impatient with the smokers who refuse to face the facts.  Not only are they shortening their own lives, they are contributing to the disease and/or discomfort of non-smokers -- particularly like those who are sensitive to secondhand smoke.  I have encountered many of them on the LSU campus through the years -- and I have the sinus infections and lung spots that must be checked annually to show for it.

I especially dislike seeing young women smoking because they are less likely to be able to quit.  We now know that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weight babies.  I've known women who quit during pregnancy but then go back to smoking once the baby is born.  But, Sudden Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more prevalent in households where infants are exposed to secondhand (or thirdhand) smoke.  Children exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes are also much more likely to develop asthma and breathing problems.

So, in the spirit of GASO, I will plead again for smokers to make the effort to stop.  Many resources are available to help -- especially the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.  Most states also offer free quit line help.  The truth is that if you quit for one day, you can quit for good.