By TEDDYE SNELL
On Thursday, many smokers across the country will take the first step to kicking the habit by participating in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.
According to the American Cancer Society’s website, on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society got nearly one million smokers to quit for one day, marking the first Great American Smokeout. The ACS took the project nationwide the following year, and since then, there have been dramatic changes in the way society views tobacco advertising and its use.
This year, members of the Cherokee County Communities of Excellence Tobacco Control Coalition and their partners will be providing tobacco quit kits at several locations – including Tahlequah City Hospital, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah Public Library, Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital, NeoHealth in Hulbert, Walmart and Reasor’s.
“More and more people in Cherokee County and across the state have successfully given up tobacco with help from the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, or by developing their own quit plan,” said Tes Hardison, Communities of Excellence assistant coordinator. “But we remain active in our community because the tobacco industry continues to market its products to our youth and young adults, which ultimately has led to the death of thousands of Oklahomans each year.”
The kits include mints, chewy candy, a lollipop, a straw (for chewing on) a card for the helpline, and a card that includes tips for smoking cessation success.
According to Hardison, the situation is improving, thanks to local groups like the Communities of Excellence, which receives technical support from the Oklahoma State Health Department and grant awards and management from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
Fewer smokers now in Oklahoma
A national study released in August shows the percentage of adult smokes in Oklahoma has dropped from 26.1 percent in 2011 for 23.3 percent in 2012, which improved Oklahoma’s smoking rate among the states from 47th to tie for 39th place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicated Oklahoma has 75,000 fewer smokers in 2012 than in 2011.
Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Executive Director Tracey Strader believes the state is making great strides in becoming tobacco-free.
“More Oklahomans are quitting tobacco than ever before as a businesses, schools and faith and community organizations adopt smoke-free and tobacco-free policies and provide support to Oklahomans who desire to quit smoking or use tobacco products,” said Strader. “Whether you call the helpline, talk with your doctor, or quit on your own, there’s never been a better time to quit.”
Carol Choate, coordinator for the Cherokee County Communities of Excellence Tobacco Control Coalition, encourages all area smokers to take that first step on Thursday.
“We have so many avenues of support available to people here who really want to quit,” said Choate.
“It may seem like one little step - participating in the Great American Smokeout - but it can lead to a longer, healthier life.”
This year, the ACA is celebrating quitters and their supporters on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Sharecare and the ACA are teaming up to host a Great American Smokeout Twitter chat.
To ask a question about quitting or legal measures being taken to reduce tobacco use, long on to Twitter and submit the question to @Sharecrow, or submit them on Sharecrows Facebook page.
To view the results, go online Thursday, Nov. 21, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. CST to see the answers roll in from the American Cancer Society and other experts.
A search for #quitforgood will also help those interested find the Twitter feed.
For information about smoking cessation in Cherokee County, Call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helplineat (800) 784-8669.