The Harford County Health Department joins public health organizations around the state and throughout the nation encouraging smokers to take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout (GASO) event on November 17th.
The annual event challenges people not to smoke cigarettes for 24 hours, hoping their decision will last. “One day tobacco-free could possibly stretch into a tobacco-free life, especially if there is some preparation involved,” states Harford County Health Officer, Susan Kelly, suggesting smokers may use the date to make a plan to quit, or arrange in advance to quit smoking that day. “It’s an opportunity to discover what tools are available to help them quit and stay quit while drawing attention to preventing the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking. It also serves as an opportunity for those using other forms of tobacco and nicotine, including electronic nicotine delivery systems (or ENDS), to begin the process of breaking the hold nicotine has on their lives, their health, personal and family finances.”
Nicotine in tobacco products is strongly addictive making it hard to quit but quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age. The Health Department reminds smokers they can increase their chances of success by getting help. Research shows that smokers are most successful kicking the habit when they have support, and that using two or more measures to quit works better than using any one of them alone. Resources for quitting include:
- Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
- Stop-smoking instructional and support groups
- Online quit groups
- Nicotine replacement products
- Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
- Guide books
- Encouragement and support from friends and family members
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. National cigarette use rates continue to drop (from 42% in 1965 to 17% in 2014) but about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. An additional public health concern is that some other forms of tobacco and nicotine use, including use of e-cigs and/or vaping are increasing.
Those considering quitting or even for those taking part in the GAS, can benefit from the consistent use of any FDA approved tobacco treatment medications. These include over-the-counter medications such as nicotine patches, lozenges or gum, prescription nicotine inhalers or nasal sprays, or non-nicotine prescriptions such as Zyban or Chantix.
Others are successful using the “cold turkey approach.” Use of sugarless gums or hard candies, chewing on straws or tooth picks and just staying very busy all day can help tobacco users avoid the next cigarette, vape or . Once started, tobacco and nicotine users can add to their “toolkits” of ideas and intentional behavior changes.
The 2016 Great American Smokeout also is a good time for all businesses, multiunit housing facilities and friends of smokers to encourage their tobacco users to reach for freedom, if even for a day. The trend toward protecting everyone from second-hand and third-hand smoke is gaining momentum as more businesses and residential facilities move toward policy changes that restrict or prohibit the use of smoked and vaped products around their facilities.
Some, such as Harford County Government and University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health System transitioned to tobacco-free campuses years ago. More are in the process of doing so. Some residential communities already have smoke-free unit and public area policies while others are moving toward these policies that protect health, save costs, and reduce insurance liability.
The Health Department, through Cigarette Restitution Fund backing, provides educational outreach to schools and community organizations, promoting tobacco use prevention and greater public awareness regarding the consequences of tobacco use. It also offers no-cost tobacco-cessation (or “Quit Tobacco” classes) throughout the year to any adult tobacco user who wants to quit.
For more information about national and statewide tobacco use prevention and cessation resources and support, visit www.cdc.gov/tobacco or crf.dhmh.maryland.gov. To learn more about tobacco educational and outreach initiatives in Harford County, or to get more information about “quit smoking” classes and other available cessation resources, contact the Harford County Health Department’s Public Health Education Unit at 410-612-1781.