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Put down the pack for Great American Smoke Out |

Put down the pack for Great American Smoke Out

Mary Pickels

Step outside to smoke.

Try gum or candy when the urge to light up hits.

Consider the patch.

Those are among the suggestions experts offer to those trying to quit, or cut back on, smoking.

For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout , held on the third Thursday of November.

According to the nonprofit’s website, nearly 38 million Americans smoke cigarettes.

Awareness of the dangers of smoking is making inroads, with cigarette smoking rates dropping from 42 percent in 1965 to under 15.5 percent in 2016, according to the cancer society.

Workplace, restaurant, hospital and other sites’ smoking bans and tax hikes on cigarettes continue to chip away at use, the website notes.

But as the cause of more than 480,000 deaths per year, smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world, the cancer society reports.

This year, on Nov. 15, the cancer society, along with Penn State Cooperative Extension, will continue to urge smokers, community groups, businesses and health care providers to make a plan to quit smoking.

Additional regional resources include Saint Vincent College Prevention Projects and Tobacco Free Allegheny .

Sparing others

Vickie Oles, coordinator of the Tobacco Prevention/Cessation Program with the local extension office, says it also is addressing vaping as part of its efforts.

“We are finding that families are vaping around children. And youths, who did really well on cutting down their smoking, are now using e-cigarettes. They have bought into the message that it’s safe,” Oles says.

Among its efforts to encourage smokers to cut back and/or quit, the agency is providing county libraries bookmarks recommending parents smoke outside.

“With the Head Start (program), we are trying to get out the message that not everyone is ready to quit. … How about if we encourage families to make the Great American Smokeout the first step on the goal to eventually becoming a smoke-free individual by using that day to begin to smoke outside?” Oles says.

Toxins from one cigarette can linger for 24 to 48 hours, Oles says.

“People will say, ‘I only smoke in the house when the kids are in school,’ not realizing the toxins hang around, and the same thing when smoking in their cars. Toxins get pulled into the ventilation system and get recirculated,” she says.

Motivation and assistance

“In our (Westmoreland) county, we can do telephone coaching for people who want information, are getting ready to quit and direct them to state resources,” Oles says.

Through the PA Free Quitline, those hoping to quit smoking may qualify for free nicotine replacement therapy — patch, gum or lozenges.

“You have to be motivated and ready to quit within 30 days of calling to get the free (replacement therapy),” Oles says.

Those who are not ready can work with local phone coaches to select a quit date.

Free cessation classes can be set up with employers, civic groups and churches by leaving a message at 1-888-NOHABIT (664-2248). “The goal of the program is to teach you skills to deal with your urge for tobacco,” she says.

She suggests smokers review for a day or two the times they smoke. Keeping a diary will show when one typically turns to smoking — during stress, as a reward for completing a task or boredom.

“Are there any hobbies you used to enjoy that you could do instead when you’re bored? What can you do that’s healthy to reward yourself for completing a task?” Oles asks. “I have some people who are highly motivated who will say, ‘I’ll put (the cigarettes) in the trunk of my car. If it’s raining, I won’t want to get them.’”

More methods

Breathe Pennsylvania , a Cranberry nonprofit, provides education, prevention, awareness and direct services to help prevent lung disease. It also offers smoking cessation services for individuals and businesses. Its document Quit Smoking Your Way compares methods of quitting.

Rebecca Kishlock is the agency’s director of tobacco cessation and education programs.

While not directly involved with the Great American Smokeout campaign, the organization offers two programs, Smoke-Free For Life for adults, and Smokeless Saturday, for youths caught on school property with any tobacco products. That option can be in lieu of referral to a district magistrate and steep fines, according to the agency’s website.

Kishlock says Breathe Pennsylvania does not encourage adults or youths to use electronic cigarettes, but rather recommends FDA-approved nicotine replacements and the PA Free Quitline for help in quitting.

E-cigarettes, usually powered by batteries and made to look like traditional cigarettes, heat a nicotine solution that produces an aerosol for users to inhale. Though they are considered safer than cigarettes, they are not harmless, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E-cigarettes can contain nicotine, heavy metals and flavoring, such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease.

Kishlock references an earlier Tribune-Review story that details the dangers of vaping and potential “wet lung.”

The flavorings and juices of some e-cigarettes, including peppermint, cotton candy and Swedish Fish, she says, “can be very confusing for youths.”

“They still have a variety of chemicals that cause issues with the lungs,” Kishlock says.

Details: 724-858-4223, email or pa.quitlogix

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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