Join others for Great American Smokeout Nov. 15
How many times have you or a person who know who smokes tried to quit? It’s not an easy thing to do, but if you are a smoker it’s the most important thing you can do to improve your health.
The Great American Smokeout on Thursday, November 15 is an annual event organized by The American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to commit or recommit to healthy, smoke-free lives starting with a day. This year’s theme is “Day 1,” recognizing it as a day for smokers to start their journey toward a smoke-free life.
Locally, the Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Swain County and MountainWise encourage Swain County residents to seek the resources they need to begin a smoking cessation program.
“The most important thing smokers can do to improve their health is to quit smoking cigarettes and other forms of combustible tobacco,” said Trish Hipgrave, president of Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Swain County. “We are showing our support for people who take those first steps toward making a plan to quit.”
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for 29% of all cancer deaths. In fact, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drug combined.
Smoking contributes to the leading causes of death in Swain County including disease of the heart, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
Swain County also has a high rate of new mothers who report they smoked while pregnant, 25.1%. Smoking while pregnant can increase the risk of babies being born too small, too soon and with asthma or other health problems.
Goals of the Coalition for a Drug Free Swain County have included reducing mothers who smoke while pregnant, making government buildings, grounds and parks tobacco-free and smoke free public places including e-cigarettes.
While cigarette smoking rates have dropped, about 37.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes and approximately 20 million try to quit every year but only 1.4 million succeed.
In Swain County, 18.5% say they smoke cigarettes, 5.7% smokeless and 3.9% electronic.
There are resources available to help you or a family member of friend quit smoking or using tobacco products. Getting help through counseling and or prescription medication can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully, according to the American Cancer Society.
“I would definitely suggest calling the Quitline because they will actually get to talk to an addiction counselor,” said Tobin Lee, region 1 tobacco prevention manager with MountainWise. “Studies have found talking to someone and having nicotine replacement therapy helps more than quitting cold turkey. When you are able to talk to someone and able to develop a custom plan for you and wean yourself off of tobacco, you have so much more successes than by yourself.”
All North Carolinians have access to free evidence-based telephone tobacco treatment services through QuitlineNC. The services include treatment sessions with a highly trained Quit Coach and some qualify for free nicotine replacement therapy as well.
Participants with Medicaid, Medicare or who are uninsured can receive 4 free counseling calls. There is also a special 10 treatment protocol for pregnant women.
For Medicaid or Medicare patients, 2 weeks of nicotine patches are available for free, and the same is true for 8 weeks for uninsured patients. State Health Plan members get 12 weeks of nicotine patches for free, and Blue Cross Blue Shield NC members can receive 12 weeks of any cessation medication for no copay (with a prescription).
To access services, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit quitlineNC.com.
Currently, Swain County Health Department has a limited number of free nicotine cessation products including nicotine patches, lozenges and gum.
The Great American Smokeout provides tools for family members, friends, co-workers and even employers to encourage others to quit smoking.
“The biggest things they can do is if they smoke or use any forms of tobacco they can join with them,” Lee said. “It’s hard for someone to quit when everyone else around them is doing the same thing. You can also keep giving the more words of encouragement and help them any way possible.
“It takes anywhere on average 7 to 8 times to quit smoking you might not be successful the first time, but the key is to keep trying.”
To learn more and see more resources with the Great American Smokeout, visit cancer.org/smokeout.
“The Coalition wants to help the people in our community to be healthy and happy,” Hipgrave said. “During this year’s Great American Smokeout event, we hope everyone will join us and encourage their friends, family and colleagues to join us in committing to smoke free lives.”