We can make Great American Smokeout a success

by Brian Hummell – Nov. 16, 2011
My Turn – AZ Republic
In Arizona, where smoking rates are at an all-time low — 16 percent compared with 21 percent nationally — people who smoke have been described as among the most addicted.

With the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on Thursday, many will find the courage to put down their cigarettes for 24 hours. Research tells us they will need our help to throw out their cigarettes for good.

This national day of awareness was launched with the idea that if smokers quit for one day, it could be the first step toward a lifelong commitment to being tobacco-free.

While the hope is that one day can lead to many, the reality is that overcoming tobacco addiction can only be achieved with the right support.

The scientifically proven approach to successfully quitting tobacco is counseling and ongoing access to services, including FDA-approved over-the-counter and prescribed medications.

With that in mind, if you own a business or run a company, a good way to mark the Great American Smokeout would be to assess your employee insurance plan. A strong smoking-cessation program is comprehensive and unlimited.

Employers large and small can turn to the state as a model. This year Arizona upgraded its employee smoking-cessation program by removing the lifetime maximum benefit of $500, which in turn provides support for multiple quit attempts.

Doing so ensures that smokers have the access and support they’ll need to quit. This is important, knowing that the average smoker will quit seven to 11 times before being smoke-free. As a group, 70 percent will make an attempt to quit in their lifetime, yet fewer than 5 percent who try to quit on their own are smoke-free for six to 12 months.

Tobacco use is not just a “bad habit.” Addiction to nicotine is one of the toughest addictions to overcome.

In Arizona and nationally, the reliance on nicotine is a health issue that costs millions of dollars every year.

Forty-five years after the surgeon general’s report first found that tobacco smoke is a health hazard, the use of tobacco products remains the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death, killing approximately 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in direct health-care costs each year. Secondhand smoke alone kills nearly 50,000 non-smoking Americans every year, including 3,400 deaths from lung cancer.

Dollar figures like these are hard to bear when the return on investment in smoking-cessation programs is so good. Specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates comprehensive smoking-cessation benefits cost between $1.20 and $4.80 per person per year, miniscule when compared with the $1,623-per-smoker per year in excess medical expenditures.

An individual smoker can add up to 10 years on his or her life. And a pack-a-day smoker can save more than $1,900 a year, not to mention the improved quality of life.

On this Great American Smokeout, do your part. Encourage smokers you know to make a quit attempt. And be supportive of the smokers in your life.

Quitting is not easy, but is possible with the adequate help of a quality cessation program. Arizona’s ASHLine has helped thousands quit.

Call 800-55-66-222 to talk to a cessation coach today — it might save your life.

Brian Hummell is Arizona director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Read the article online here.

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