Great American Smokeout

Tana LoyAssociate Medical Writer

It is amazing how quickly information, and the opinions that come with it, spread in our technology-driven world.  With the advent of social media, we have seen just how quickly mere tidbits of information can explode online, ending up on our news feeds and eventually being discussed amongst ourselves.  With this method of obtaining information, it would be extremely interesting to see how we could have changed the public’s opinion on cigarette smoking had the deleterious information been available online in 1964.

Next year will mark 40 years since the United States Surgeon General released a comprehensive study revealing the negative effects of cigarette smoking.1 It took US government until 1971 to ban all radio and television advertisements for cigarettes.1 In 1965, 42% of adults identified as smokers. In 2011, that number dropped dramatically to 19%.3  While a 51% drop in significant, smoking still cost us over $193 billion in 2004.4One would think that the financial costs alone would be reason enough to stop, as per-person costs are estimated at $4,260 per adult smoker in 2004.4 However, Americans are still willing to shell out over $10 a pack in some areas.

What will it take to get the remaining one-fifth of Americans to quit smoking? By now, it is extremely common knowledge that smoking is truly dangerous, and how every part of one’s overall well-being suffers from the effects of smoking. Will telling smokers over and over about the damage second-hand smoke does to those around them, especially their children, light the spark to get them to quit?  Will social ostracization ever be enough of a motivator?  How about higher taxes on cigarettes or smoke-free workplaces?

Instead of punishing the smokers in our lives, maybe this year we can take a different approach.  This year, let’s encourage our friends to abstain on November 21 for The Great American Smokeout. Let’s pledge to support them by being available to listen when their willpower is tested, or by helping them keep track of their physical and mental changes during their journey to becoming smoke-free.  Let’s celebrate small victories with a special meal or gift to keep them on the right track.  We can offer to join our coworkers in an exercise break instead of a smoke break. For the healthcare professionals with patients who smoke, why not start an initiative to offer a smoking cessation treatment plan every time they come in for a visit? We can become partners in their victory, because their victory affects us all.



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