Day invites smokers to quit
Great American Smokeout Thursday encourages smokers to give up cigarettes for good
For some smokers, Thursday will mark a turning point in their lives. On Nov. 15, the American Cancer Society is asking smokers to target the day to quit the habit with the Great American Smokeout.
"There are some statistics that show that after a year (of quitting) your chances improve," said physician Kenneth Holladay about the risk of cancer. "It never goes back to (the same level as) the normal person, but it definitely gets back to a level where it's worthwhile."
Now in its 25th year, the smokeout began when a Massachusetts man asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent to a high school scholarship fund.
Those who quit, Holladay said, become some of the most adamant proponents of quitting. Holladay said he considers himself fortunate to have never picked up the habit.
"My mom caught me at 10 or 11," he said. "I remember that spanking."
Although Holladay thinks statistically fewer people smoke today than did several decades ago, he still has seen patients in his practice who smoke, including people with cardiovascular diseases and one woman who smoked while on oxygen.
Some physicians won't care for patients who don't follow orders and quit, Holladay said, but he realizes smoking can be a serious physical addiction.
"There are people who want to stop, but they physically cannot do it," he said. "It's a physical addiction, and there are withdrawal symptoms."
Holladay said he had another patient who was able to kick an addiction to alcohol but not to cigarettes.
"If you want to stop, you've got to stop both things," he said.
Many people start smoking as teenagers, Holladay said, sometimes before they are 18 and legally able to purchase cigarettes. Yet the Kansas Department of Revenue reported slightly more retailers in compliance with laws not to sell to minors under age 18. In the fiscal year ending June 30, compliance went up from 78.1 percent to 78.5 percent statewide, but in Douglas County only 47 percent of retailers complied. The department measures compliance by calculating the number of controlled successful cigarette sales to minors younger than 18.
Although many smokers start young, they can quit at any age, Holladay said.
"It might take five years or 10 years," he said. "I think they quit when they become smart enough to realize the harm it's doing to their body."