James P. Wilmot Cancer Center Supports Great American Smokeout

Department of Community and Preventive Medicine provides support for smoking cessation

November 15, 2011

The 36th annual Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, takes place Thursday, November 17, and experts at the Wilmot Cancer Center and the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center (GRATCC) stand ready to help smokers achieve success in their quest to quit.

The Great American Smokeout is an effort to help smokers live a healthier lifestyle and reduce cancers caused by smoking. Research shows that much of the risk of premature death from smoking could be prevented by quitting. Smokers who quit, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit reduce their risk of lung cancer – ten years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. Quitting also lowers the risk for other major diseases including heart disease and stroke.

“Many people consider quitting smoking each year as part of the Great American Smokeout because they know smoking is bad for their health,” said Scott McIntosh, Ph.D., director of GRATCC, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Community and Preventive Medicine. “There are many resources available to support people who want to quit smoking.”

The incentives to quit smoking are numerous and well-documented. Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contain more than 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known to cause cancer. Many of these chemicals are added in the processes of tobacco farming and cigarette production. As tobacco burns during the act of smoking, the smoker is exposed to the harmful chemicals, tar and gases, as are the non-smokers around them.

All systems within the body are affected by smoking, particularly the cardiovascular system. Damage to the heart and vascular system is the leading cause of death attributed to smoking. In addition, smoking and exposure to second hand smoke can be linked to all cancers, including recent evidence of more involvement with breast cancer than previously thought.  Lung cancer, of which most cases are linked to smoking, is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, and more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Smokers can get help in fighting nicotine addiction from the New York State Quitline, which offers supportive tips and information for smokers who want to stop. Call the quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or 1-866-697-8487.

McIntosh urges smokers to talk with their physicians about their desire to quit and take advantage of educational and supportive programs they suggest.  GRATCC receives funding from the state Department of Health to help doctors identify patients who smoke and encourage them to quit. Physician practices within Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Livingston and Seneca counties can receive training to help patients quit smoking, and earn CME credits, through sessions provided by GRATCC.

Each year, about one-third of all smokers try to quit, but fewer than 10 percent succeed. However, if you track smokers over their lifetime, more than 50 percent do ultimately succeed, McIntosh said.

McIntosh offers the following tips for people trying to quit:

  • If a smoker can give up cigarettes for 24 hours, he or she doubles the chance for permanent success.
  • Quitting smoking cuts in half the risk of developing any type of cancer later in life. Even if you have pre-cancerous cellular changes in your body, quitting smoking can reverse that process.
  • Make a plan for quitting. Talk to a physician about strategies such as cold turkey versus a nicotine patch, gum or inhaler.
  • Tell friends, family and co-workers that you plan to quit and rally them to help you stick with it.
  • Avoid risky situations or behaviors, and remove triggers such as ashtrays and lighters.
  • Remind yourself why you are quitting and reward yourself every day you forego cigarettes.

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Michael Tedesco
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