LEWISTOWN - For the past 37 years, the American Cancer Society has dedicated the third Thursday of November to the Great American Smokeout, a day for the nation to quit smoking or using other tobacco products.
On Nov. 15, this year's Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society encourages people to quit smoking or make a plan to quit.
"Quitting comes down to will power and motivation," said Dr. Raselette Hunt, family medicine physician at Geisinger-Lewistown. "It takes a lot of personal belief as well as support from the family, friends and physician."
The most important part of quitting is to pick a goal day, like the Smokeout, to end the use of tobacco products, Hunt said. To prepare, all ashtrays kept in the home, the car or at work should be thrown out. Then, when the goal day arrives, throw away all cigarettes, pipes, cigars or chewing tobacco, she said.
"Quitting is a difficult process," Hunt said. "Write down the reasons for quitting on a note card that you can carry at all times. That way, whenever you have a craving, you can take the card out and remind yourself what's important."
It's also critical to keep in mind and prepare for symptoms associated with nicotine withdraw, Hunt said. For the first two weeks of quitting, irritability, hunger, cough, headache and difficulty concentrating are common. However, these are psychological rather than physical symptoms and can be overcome, she said.
During the withdrawl period, staying hydrated and drinking large amounts of water is needed to flush the nicotine out of the system, Hunt said. But after two weeks, these symptoms will subside, she added.
According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of quitting can be felt almost immediately, even while going through the withdraw. Within 20 minutes of quitting, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal, within 12 hours carbon monoxide levels return to normal and within 24 hours the body and breath loses tobacco odor, according to www.cancer.org.
During the next year, circulation and lung function improves, coughing and shortness of breath decrease and the risk of heart disease is cut in half, according to the American Cancer Society website.
"It's harder to quit for those who've used tobacco products longer," Hunt said. "Over the years, habits are developed like smoking a pipe after meals or smoking a cigarette while driving. These people have to break the habits as well as the addiction."
For people planning to quit, there are over-the-counter aids and prescription assistance, Hunt said. Many of them allow smokers to decrease tobacco use over time which is less overwhelming, she said.
Medications include Zyban, Wellbutrin, Aplenziz and Chantix while over-the-counter aids include nicotine therapy replacement patches, gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges. A physician should be consulted before starting any type of medicinal aid, Hunt said.
Others prefer to quit "cold turkey," however, only 4 percent to 7 percent of people are able to quit tobacco use without medication or other assistance, according to the American Cancer Society website. Those who use nicotine replacement therapy or a prescription aid have a 25 percent success rate of staying smoke-free for an extended amount of time.
"There is no one plan or strategy for quitting that works for everyone," Hunt said. "It's important to stay in control and keep in mind why you decided to quit. Remember that it's never just one more time, but always turns into just one more."
For more information about the Great American Smokeout, visit www.cancer.org. The website also provides further tips and resources for quitting.