Here's an alarming statistic: an estimated 43.8 million Americans were smokers in 2011.
We've brought this to your attention because Thursday is the 37th-annual Great American Smokeout, a day dedicated to helping smokers take the first step in quitting smoking. Put down those cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or don't put a pinch between your cheek and gum this Thursday.
It's not so hard, if you consider the alternatives: Lung cancer, lip cancer, cancers of the mouth, throat and digestive tract.
The American Cancer Society has a list of benefits of ending smoking, including:
A drop in carbon monoxide levels in the blood to normal in 12 hours.
An increase in lung function within three months.
A reduction in coughing and shortness of breath and a gain in the body's natural defenses against lung infections within nine months.
In a year, the risk of coronary heart disease is dropped to half that of a smoker.
If the health statistics aren't enough, calculate the cost of your particular form of tobacco on your weekly, monthly and annual budget.
The cancer society has scheduled the smokeout for the third Thursday of November for decades, dating back to an event in California in 1974.
The day isn't just about struggling through a single-day commitment to go tobacco free. It's about learning, and about finding and using tools to reduce and eventually end personal tobacco use. If cold turkey quitting is too much for you, consider the availability of counseling, nicotine replacement products, group support, telephone hotline support, guidebooks and encouragement, including nagging, from friends and family.
Today is about making a commitment. Trying to stay away from tobacco for a day is the first step on what is a quick road to a healthier lifestyle. When you're breathing better, when your heart is functioning better, you can be more active, which puts you in better health overall, which leads to a change in mood.
To learn more about the solution to your tobacco problem, visit www.cancer.org to learn about resources, or contact the American Cancer Society chapter.
Please, for your own health, commit to quit this year. You can do it.