The Great American Smokeout
On the third Thursday of November, every year for more than 40 years, there has been an event called the Great American Smokeout. This tradition emerged from an effort started in 1970, where a man named Arthur P. Mullaney asked his town to give up smoking for a day and donate the money they would have used on cigarettes on a high school scholarship. Several other efforts followed, and California became the first state to adopt an official annual event. The American Cancer Society adopted the event nationally, and the third Thursday became the official Great American Smokeout date. So what is it? This day is an effort to challenge smokers to stop smoking for one day, with the hope that these determined smokers will set more goals to quit smoking for good.
Cigarettes are still one of the most dangerous combinations of substances that people introduce to their bodies. Many ingredients are carcinogenic, meaning that they are cancer-causing. According to the American Cancer Society's website:
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for 29% of all cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx (voice box), mouth, sinuses, pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), and bladder. It also has been linked to the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary (mucinous), colon/rectum, kidney, stomach, and some types of leukemia. Cigars and pipes cause cancers, too.
Why are cigarettes so difficult to stop? One word- NICOTINE. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Those addicted to nicotine not only need support to stop smoking but may need several different efforts at once- quitline telephone services, medical interventions (nicotine replacements, prescription medications), self-help books, support of family and friends, or even quit smoking podcasts! Several resources to quit smoking can be found at the NJ Quitline online, or at 1-866-NJSTOPS (6578677).
This year, young adults are getting involved in the event by encouraging their peers to quit vaping (Juul, e-cigarettes, or vapes). With Juul products, in particular, there is not a nicotine-free option, and often the nicotine concentration rate is 5%, which is twice the concentration of traditional cigarettes. Their products also contain nicotine salts- an effort to make nicotine more neutral which makes the aerosol go down more smoothly (less coughing and throat irritation). This leads to a triple threat- or triple attraction- to users: a larger dose of nicotine, a smoother intake, and appealing flavoring. Other contributing factors for their popularity are sleek, technologically advanced designs, concealability, and ease of use. There are also many misleading messages swirling about use of vaping products. Teens especially, those who have never smoked before, are becoming addicted to nicotine at an alarming rate. In fact, between 2017 and 2018, high schoolers that vaped jumped 87%, and the use of these products has been seen in Mercer County as young as 4th grade!
Vaping got a great deal of attention this summer as people around the US came down with several mysterious illnesses mimicking pneumonia, but was unresponsive to traditional pneumonia treatments. The CDC has now labeled this condition as EVALI- E-cigarette/Vaping use Associated Lung Injury. EVALI has caused 39 deaths in several states and territories, and more than 2,000 are still facing health consequences. While the CDC has confirmed in 29 out of 29 cases that vitamin E acetate was present, they still have yet to confirm exactly what is causing these issues, although THC use is involved in many of the cases.
The NJ Quitline also helps with e-cigarette, Juul and vaping addictions, and also helps with all ages in Mercer County. There are several other textable quit services, including a national text line for teens can be reached by texting QUIT to 4784. the following services are developed and run by the National Cancer Institute.
SmokefreeTXT SmokefreeVET - TXT For military veterans who receive their health care through VA and are ready to quit smoking or using tobacco. Text VET to 47848.
SmokefreeWOMEN Women can face different challenges when quitting. Learning what makes quitting unique for some women can set you up for smokefree success.
SmokefreeMOM - TXT For pregnant women in the United States who want to cut back on cigarettes and quit smoking. Text MOM to 222888.
Smokefree60+ Smokefree 60+ provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking. Visit www.60plus.smokefree.gov.