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It's time for the Great American Smokeout

November 21, 2013

Thursday, Nov. 21 is “day 1” for smokers around the country who will attempt to quit smoking as part of the Great American Smokeout.

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes —nearly 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the United States, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

To help you make it through “day 1,” Baystate Medical Center pulmonary nurse clinician Michele Hart, RN, BSN, offers the following tips:

• Have a survival kit ready of healthy snacks like carrot or celery sticks, something that you can grab easily as opposed to junk food to help fend off the craving for a smoke
• Throw all your cigarettes away, packs you make keep in the home or even in your car, and put all matches and lighters out of sight
• Have a “buddy” to call for support, but make sure they’re a non-smoker
• Keep busy, take a walk, do a crossword puzzle, anything to keep your mind off smoking.

Hart noted the benefits of giving up smoking begin immediately.

“Within the first 20 minutes your heart rate begins to drop back to normal levels, within 12 hours after quitting the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop, and 24 hours after quitting your risk for a heart attack decreases, then after a couple of weeks your lung function will improve,” she said.

As for her best advice when the going gets tough while trying to quit – Hart said, “Don’t give up.”