Smokers are encouraged to try to quit on Thursday, Nov. 19, as part of the Great American Smoke Out. The annual event is organized by the American Cancer Society, in an effort to reduce cancers caused by smoking and praised by the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center’s lung cancer care team.
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. The tobacco burns while a cigarette is smoked, exposing the smoker to the harmful chemicals, tar and gases, as well as people around them.
All systems within the body are affected by smoking. The primary cause of death by smoking is through damage to the cardiovascular system. Smoking is related to all cancers, including recent evidence of more involvement with breast cancer than previously thought. This is also true of second hand smoke.
Experts at the Wilmot Cancer Center and the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center (GRATCC) can help smokers who want to quit achieve success.
“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 the GRATCC, a 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.”
Most cases of lung cancer are related to smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined, said Manoj Agarwal, M.D., director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Wilmot Cancer Center.
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 recently received a $1.7 million contract from the state Department of Health to help doctors identify patients who smoke and encourage them to quit.
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.