World No Tobacco Day is May 31

Smokers Urged to Quit For a Day, Take a Walk

May 29, 2002

The World Health Organization’s annual World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on Friday is designed to call attention to the impact of smoking on public health, and to encourage tobacco users to give up their habit for at least one day. This year’s theme goes a step further by promoting exercise as a replacement for smoking.

Plenty of scientific evidence has shown that more exercise and less smoking extends life, even for older adults. One recently published study, for example, followed 1,000 people ages 72 to 98 living independently in a Florida retirement community, and found that those who had quit smoking and began exercising, even late in their lives, were far more likely to survive during the nine-year study period than the people who still smoked or didn’t engage in physical activity.

"It’s never too late to quit smoking for good," says Scott McIntosh, Ph.D., assistant director of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Smoking Research Program. "Exercise can be a great distraction for smokers who quit at any age. It helps to fight off withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, sleeping problems and weight gain. In addition, evidence shows that cardiovascular functioning improves for smokers who quit for good."

McIntosh has a special interest in encouraging middle-aged and older people to quit smoking: He is a leader in the UR’s Project 50+, a research study that’s calling for participants age 50 and older. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study is measuring what interventions work best for people who have tried to quit before and would like to quit smoking for good. Participants will get self-help manuals and access to an interactive web site or telephone "quit line." To join, call toll free, 1-888-222-3993 or visit www.p50plus.org.

As part of WNTD, the World Health Organization also plans to raise awareness about the marketing of tobacco products at sporting events, and is collaborating with other groups to provide a smoke-free environment at sports venues.

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