For you smokers out there, take this day to be your first step to quitting.
This Thursday, the American Cancer Society is encouraging everyone to quit smoking, whether it’s for one day or forever, with their 37th annual Great American Smokeout. The day serves as an initiative that local and national groups use to promote smoking cessation.
We all know that smoking is bad for us. In the U.S., there are more deaths caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV/AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yet we also know that nicotine is an addiction that millions of adults have, including many African-Americans. We account for 12 percent of the 46 million adult smokers in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. And while Blacks smoke less than whites, we are more likely to die of lung cancer.
Quitting, even for a day, can make some changes in the state of your health and reduce your chance of developing lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
—20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
—12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
—2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
—1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.
—1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.
—5 years after quitting: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
And while kicking the habit is the obvious answer, quitting ain’t easy, especially for us. Last November, BET.com reported that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that while 59 percent of Black smokers tried to quit, only 3.3 percent actually succeeded — the lowest success rate among all races and ethnicities.
Those low rates may be explained by the fact that more than 80 percent of African-Americans smokers smoke menthols [PDF] — a minty tasting form of cigarettes that are harder to quit. Also, Big Tobacco spends millions on advertising these types of cigarettes specifically to our community.
But that doesn’t mean that kicking the habit is impossible. With the help of patches, medications, counseling and other services, anything is possible. The key is not to give up.
Learn more about what programs there are out to help you finally quit smoking here.
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(Photo: Chicago Tribune/MCT /Landov)