Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.
While the days of everyone smoking at the office have disappeared like the sharply dressed characters of “MadMen,” tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US. About 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — a bit under 1 in every 5 adults.
The American Cancer Society states the reason so many Americans find it difficult to quit is because they have developed a physical dependence on and emotional addiction to nicotine, the drug found naturally in tobacco, which is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. When smokers try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Yet, if a smoker can endure the withdrawal period that typically lasts two weeks , the benefits are great. The Surgeon General has concluded: Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. These benefits apply to people who already have smoking-related diseases and those who don’t.
Women who stop smoking before pregnancy or during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk of having a low birth-weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
The health benefits of quitting smoking are far greater than any risks from the small weight gain (usually less than 10 pounds) or any emotional or psychological problems that may follow quitting.
Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is the Director of Health Communication at Southeast Missouri State University.