Monday Medical: The Great American Smokeout

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Stub it out

Join Yampa Valley Medical Center for the Great American Smokeout by quitting tobacco or encouraging a smoker to quit, if even for just one day, on Thursday. Stop by YVMC’s Wellness Program office or Community Health Resource Center on Thursday to pick up stop-smoking materials and Quit Kits from the Colorado QuitLine.

— “Help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

That’s the slogan for the American Cancer Society’s 34th annual Great American Smokeout, scheduled for Thursday.

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in this event by smoking less or quitting for the day. Some use the event as a springboard to quit smoking for good.

The Great American Smokeout began in 1976 to inspire and encourage smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking for that one day. By doing so, smokers will take an important step toward a healthier life — a step that can lead to reducing cancer risk and creating more birthdays.

Researchers say quitting smoking can increase life expectancy. People who stop smoking before age 50 can cut their risk of dying in the following 15 years in half, compared with those who continue to smoke.

Smokers who quit also reduce their risk of lung cancer — 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker.

People are most successful in kicking the smoking habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products; counseling; smoking cessation telephone hot lines; prescription medicine to lessen cravings; stop-smoking groups; guide books; and encouragement and support from friends and family members.

Using two or more of these methods to help quit works better than using any one of them alone. Since it typically can take four to six attempts at quitting before a smoker becomes tobacco-free for the long term, it is recommended to try different quitting methods than those that have been tried previously.

Locally, Yampa Valley Medical Center’s respiratory care department offers nicotine counseling on an outpatient basis with a physician order.

Telephone stop-smoking hotlines are an easy-to-use resource. They provide tobacco-cessation and coaching services that can help increase a person’s change of quitting for good.

The Colorado Quitline, at 1-800-639-QUIT or online at www.co.quitnet.com, offers free counseling and free nicotine patches. Available in English and Spanish, this confidential service connects tobacco users with skilled counselors who guide and support them through the process of becoming tobacco-free.

Yampa Valley Medical Center’s entire campus, including parking lots and grounds, will become 100 percent tobacco-free on Jan. 1, 2010. A task force representing YVMC, the Doak Walker Care Center and Medical Office Building is preparing signage and procedures to notify patients and visitors.

People who quit smoking live longer than those who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit substantially reduce their risk of premature death. It’s never too late to quit.

Lisa A. Bankard coordinates the Wellness and Community Education programs at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at lisa.bankard@yvmc.org.

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