Contributed by Kinsey McMurtry, MPH
“Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event.” This year on November 15, encourage others “to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day.” “By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.”
Tobacco use is still an important public health battle in Georgia. According to the 2015 Georgia Tobacco Surveillance Report, approximately one out of five Georgians aged 18 and older smoke cigarettes. Another 317,000 adults in Georgia use some form of smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco or snuff. Smoking costs Georgians $1.8 billion in direct healthcare costs every year and $3.2 billion in lost productivity. Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in Georgia, but, unfortunately, more than 10,000 people die from smoke related illnesses every year.
Not only is tobacco a problem for our adults, but our children are using tobacco products, too. Recent data shows that tobacco use is increasing among Georgia teens and young adults, putting even more lives at risk for cancer. In 2013, approximately 27,000 (8%) middle school students and 79,000 (19%) high school students in Georgia used some form of tobacco. Unfortunately, the creation of e-cigarettes has made matters worse for our youth. About 32,400 (8.4%) of middle school students and 72,900 (15.7%) of high school students in Georgia say they have tried smoking electronic cigarettes.
What most people don’t know is your health can improve within minutes of quitting. Twelve hours after you quit, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. Two weeks to three months after quitting, heart attack risk begins to drop and lung function begins to improve. Within nine months of quitting, you will cough less and breathe easier. After one year of being tobacco free, your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half. Within five years of quitting, your risk of mouth, throat and bladder cancer is cut in half. Ten years of being tobacco free means your risk of dying from lung cancer drops in half.
On Thursday, November 15, let’s celebrate the Great American Smokeout by encouraging someone you know to make a plan to quit or by making a plan for yourself. Keep in mind that although the Smokeout is a big day, any day is good for starting a healthier, happier life! To help you or a loved one get started, please call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (1-877-270-7867) for English or 1-877-2NO-FUME (1-877-266-3863) for Spanish. The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line provides free and confidential, professional tobacco cessation counseling services to Georgia adults, pregnant women and teens (ages 13 and older).
Kinsey McMurtry, MPH, is formerly the Health Promotion Coordinator at the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. The Gwinnett, Newton, & Rockdale County Health Departments work to protect and improve the health of our community by monitoring and preventing disease; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for disasters. For more information please visit the Health Department’s website at www.gnrhealth.com or call the Health Promotion Office at 678-442-6891.
This blog post has been updated since it was originally published on November 16, 2016.