To the editor:
Nov. 21 is the 38th annual Great American Smokeout. It began in 1976 by the American Cancer Society as a day dedicated to stopping smoking and to highlight the health consequences of tobacco on smokers and their families.
While there are a lot fewer smokers today than 38 years ago - thanks to repeated warnings from the surgeon general's office and other national, state and local efforts - tobacco use is still the number-one cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 60 percent of cancers (lung cancer being most common) could be prevented if people quit smoking.
So why do people still smoke or chew if they know it's bad for their health? The answer is simple: Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance, and tobacco companies continue to find new ways to advertise to young teens. The younger your addiction starts, the stronger it is. It takes, on average, seven or eight tries before a tobacco user successfully kicks the habit.
If you smoke or chew tobacco and would like help stopping, talk to your health care provider and call the New York State Smokers' Quitline (1-866-NYQUITS), which offers free counseling and, if eligible, a free two-week supply of the nicotine patch. Other over-the-counter stop-smoking medications include the nicotine gum and lozenge. Prescription stop-smoking medications include the nicotine inhaler, nicotine nasal spray, Zyban and Chantix. If you want to use one of these products to help you stop smoking, talk to your doctor about which form of therapy might work best for you. (Many are covered by health insurance, including Medicaid.)
On Nov. 21, please consider the effects smoking is having on your health and the health of your family. Even if the 21st isn't the day you quit, consider making it the day you start planning, perhaps for the new year.
Glenn Pareira III
North Country Healthy Heart Network