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Day set aside to educate about dangers of smoking

Nov. 19, 1999

By Becky Oberg

Staff Writer

The 23rd Great American SmokeOut will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday in the Bill Daniel Student Center and 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday in the Student Life Center.

Smoking causes 29 percent of all cancer deaths. The Great American SmokeOut is a day designed to educate people about the dangers of smoking and to encourage smokers to quit.

Joy Greene, an Annapolis, Md., graduate student who works in the Health Education and Wellness Office, said smoking was 'an unnatural thing' and 'very unhealthy.'

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 400,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases. This number is higher than the number of deaths from alcohol, drug abuse, homicide, suicide, car accidents and AIDS-related complications combined. Greene said smoking reduces the immune system's ability to fight infection.

According to information from the American Cancer Society, 32 million smokers out of the current 47 million smokers want to quit. More than 11 million smokers participated in last year's Great American SmokeOut.

Quitting, however, can be difficult.

'I think it depends on the person,' Greene said. 'I've known people who've quit cold turkey and had no problem or little problem, and then other people who want to quit just as badly have a lot of trouble getting rid of the dependency that they've built.'

Some rely on smoking to cope with the daily pressures of life.

'I smoke when I'm stressed,' said Jay Fancher, an Austin law student.

Other smokers try to smoke very little.

'I'm just not a pack a day person,' said Eva Fancher, a Buffalo, N.Y., law student.

The American Cancer Society said the Great American SmokeOut strives for smokers to 'prove to themselves that they can live a day without cigarettes and that they can therefore live the rest of their lives without them.'

Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, irritability, restlessness, headache and exhaustion. Sometimes these symptoms cause the smoker to start again.

However, one begins to experience the benefits of quitting almost immediately.

According to the American Cancer Society, blood pressure drops to a level near what it was before the last cigarette. The carbon monoxide level in the blood drops eight hours after quitting. Chance of heart attack decreases one day after quitting, and circulation and lung function improve up to 30 percent three months after quitting.

Greene said the Health Education and Wellness Office will distribute information on tobacco and give referrals for 'quit kits' to the American Cancer Society.