On Nov. 17, the American Cancer Society will sponsor the Great American Smoke Out, challenging smokers nationwide to quit for a day, in hopes that doing so will inspire them to quit smoking for good.
We are all aware of the grave health risks associated with tobacco smoke. In fact, according to the ACS, half of those who continue to smoke will die of a smoking-related illness. This is why I believe it is crucial that we focus on preventing young people from taking up smoking, as well as encouraging those who currently do so to stop.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in 2009, 43.6 percent of high school students had tried cigarette smoking at some point. Across America, every day roughly 3,450 children between the ages of 12 and 17 light their first cigarette. Studies show that in most cases, people who do not begin using tobacco in their teens will never end up using it later in life.
Parents can be the greatest influence in preventing their child from using tobacco. Kids whose parents regularly discuss with them the dangers of smoking are half as likely as their peers to smoke. Even those parents who smoke can encourage their children not to, as this has not been shown to diminish the efficacy of these discussions. Those whose children are already using tobacco can take this opportunity to encourage them to quit now.
The effects of quitting are immediately beneficial. According to the ACS, within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels return to normal. In just two weeks, circulation begins to improve, and coughing decreases within the first month. By the time a person reaches the 1-year mark, their risk of heart disease is half that of someone who is still smoking.