Event encourages smokers to quit

By Richard Snowden

Every third Thursday in November, the American Cancer Society shifts its campaign to discourage cigarette smoking into high gear with the Great American Smokeout.

The annual event, now entering its 29th year, will be staged across the country Thursday.

The primary goal of the Great American Smokeout is to encourage smokers to consider quitting for one day in an effort to help them stop smoking permanently.

“The idea is that if you can quit for one day, you can quit for longer,” said Nancy Bogle, a community health educator at the DeKalb County Health Department. “The whole purpose of the Smokeout is to offer help to people who are thinking about quitting and give them the tools to succeed.”

According to American Cancer Society data, smoking is responsible for 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. Estimates indicate that more than 163,000 Americans will die of lung cancer in 2005, almost 7,000 of them in Illinois.

There are approximately 45 million smokers in the United States, about one-quarter of whom participate in the Smokeout each year.

“There are usually around 11 million people who participate in the Great American Smokeout,” said Chris Boniface, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society. “In addition to helping people quit smoking, it’s also a good opportunity to educate the public on the dangers of smoking, particularly the risk of lung cancer.”

Bogle said the DeKalb County Health Department plays a significant role in local Smokeout-related efforts.

“We function as a referral source for people who participate in the Smokeout,” she said. “We refer people to the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society, and Kishwaukee Hospital has an excellent cessation class we recommend as well.

“We also do a lot of community advertisement and we do a special presentation on the day of the Smokeout targeting high schools in the area. Our health department works with Genoa High School, but all the schools in the area have similar presentations.”

At DeKalb High School, efforts to discourage smoking are ongoing, said John Rodriguez, assistant principal at DHS.

“It’s not so much about one day per year here,” Rodriguez said. “We participate in DCP/SAFE, a program that’s been around for 16 years. It’s a program that targets youth, families and schools to encourage healthy, positive behaviors.”

The American Cancer Society also promotes smoking cessation throughout the year, Boniface said.

“November is our really big month, being lung cancer awareness month,” he said. “We provide a lot of information and resources during November, although of course we’re involved in these efforts all year long.”

Boniface encouraged people who are considering quitting smoking to visit the American Cancer Society Web site at www.cancer.org or call 800-ACS-2345.

Bogle said the DeKalb County Health Department also offers a toll-free hotline for those considering kicking the habit.

“Our quit line is available all the time for people who want to stop smoking,” she said. “The number is 1-866-QUIT-YES.”