Editorial: Smokeout tomorrow gives smokers help to quit

Smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to break. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop 33 years ago declared the nicotine in cigarettes to be as addictive as cocaine or heroin. Even so, plenty of people have overcome that addiction and beaten the habit over the years, often with a lot of help and encouragement.

If you are a smoker who wants to stop, tomorrow presents a perfect opportunity to do so at a time when you can get plenty of support. Thursday is the Great American Smokeout, a day set aside by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to give up tobacco, at least for one day, and to think about quitting for good. We’re publishing this editorial today in the hope that, if you are a smoker reading it, you can prepare mentally and physically and take this step for your health, and maybe even encourage others to do the same.

Today, many more people understand the dangers of smoking than did in Koop’s day. Back then, more than half of Americans had been smokers at one time or another, and 28 percent smoked in 1988. Thirty years later, that number had been more than cut in half — just 13.7 percent of Americans were smokers in 2018, according to the American Lung Association.

In Indiana, however, those numbers are not so good. Cigarettes continue to sicken and kill far too many Hoosiers. Roughly one in five people in the state are smokers, and the Lung Association last year reported that out of the 50 states, we have the 48th highest smoking rate and the 46th highest lung cancer rate.

And smoking raises all kinds of other health problems, from heart disease to increasing the damage of diabetes to raising the risk of stroke.

There are so many reasons to stop smoking that we can’t list them all here, but many of us can personally empathize with how difficult it is to break the chains of nicotine addiction, because we did. Not only is nicotine physically addictive, smoking also becomes a behavioral and ritualistic addiction. So smokers need to have strategies ready to replace addictive behaviors. Having those strategies ready can help turn off the brain’s “reward” system that’s triggered when nicotine is inhaled.

Here are some free resources that can help you with a plan to quit smoking:

  • Get help from the Indiana Tobacco Quitline through a toll-free number — 1-800-QUIT-NOW — or online at QuitNowIndiana.com.
  • Call the American Lung Association’s Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA, or go to the website lung.org/quitsmoking.
  • Get a quit guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/guide/index.html
  • Get smoking cessation tips, advice, apps and more from the National Institutes of Health at smokefree.gov.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services offers tools to quit that include speaking or texting with experts who can help you at betobaccofree.hhs.gov/tools-quit-now.

The Great American Smokeout tomorrow is a great time to quit smoking, but in truth, anytime is. Aside from the well-known health risks, smoking is an expensive addiction. And frankly, it stinks.

When you’re ready to quit, there are more people rooting for you to succeed than you might realize. And if you don’t succeed right away, keep trying. You can do it, and your body will thank you.

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