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Voice of The Southern: If you're ready to quit smoking, there's help out there
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Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: If you're ready to quit smoking, there's help out there

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This editorial is being published together with Lee Enterprises' Illinois newspapers.

The Great American Smoke Out is an annual event that, similar to events like the community food drives, we would like to see end successfully. If food drives could wipe out food shortages and hunger, we'd cheer their departure as an ultimate victory. The Great American Smoke Out will conclude when America is smoked out — when the consumption of tobacco is fully eliminated.

The Smoke Out is held every year on the third Thursday of November, Nov. 19 this year. It serves as an annual powerful reminder — this is the event's 45th year — of the negative impact of tobacco.

It may take several attempts to quit tobacco products before actually achieving a stay-quit lifestyle. That's why there are aids like the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. The quitline is a free telephonic or phone resource for individuals wanting to quit tobacco or tobacco-related products. The phone number is 1-866-QUIT-YES (1-866-784-8937) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The organization's website is quityes.org.

The Quitline’s counselors — nurses, respiratory therapists, and tobacco-cessation specialists — all have at least 25 years of medical experience and attend accredited, renowned nicotine dependence training programs to become certified in tobacco-cessation therapies. They also are qualified to offer guidance in lung health and disease-related co-morbidities, in addition to tobacco cessation.

A nurse, respiratory therapist, or tobacco-cessation specialist will answer your call and assess your history and prepare a customized cessation program. Smokers will receive a "quit kit" created specifically to their needs. They also offer weekly check-ins for up to two months, with a follow-up at seven months.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths from heart disease and lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Secondhand tobacco smoke causes heart disease, stroke, cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight in infants, asthma and exacerbation of asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia in children and adults.

In 2018, nearly 14 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (13.7%) smoked cigarettes. This means an estimated 34.2 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

Current smoking has declined from 20.9% (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 13.7% (nearly 14 of every 100 adults) in 2018, and the proportion of ever smokers who have quit has increased.

Yet vaping remains a growing potential problem.

The last five years have seen enormous spikes in youth e-cigarette use rates. In 2017, 11.7% of high school students had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. By 2018, that number had risen to 21% and, by 2019, 27.5% of high school students had used e-cigarettes in the past month. That number dropped to 19.6% in 2020. The current use rate among middle schoolers rose from 0.6% in 2011 to 10.5% in 2019.The rate dropped to 4.7% in 2020.

You'll have a difficult time finding a smoker who has quit and has regrets. It's never too late to quit, and for 45 years, the Great American Smoke Out has been putting the possibility front and center.

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