Despite reasons to quit, number of smokers rises

Dr. Tom Glynn of the American Cancer Society says if you’re trying to quit smoking, don’t move to Wichita Falls. A better choice of a new hometown would be Provo, Utah.

Glynn, who is director of cancer science and trends for the American Cancer Society in Washington, D.C., advises smokers who are trying to quit to avoid social situations that encourage smoking.

Though Thursday marked the annual Great American Smokeout, Americans seem determined to continue the habit. A study released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in 2008 the percentage of U.S. adults who smoke increased to 20.6 percent from 19.8 percent in 2007 — the first increase in 15 years.

The same survey said the “smokiest metro area” is Wichita Falls, where 30.9 percent of adults said they smoke.

“To avoid temptation, maybe you should consider a move to the Provo-Orem metro area in Utah, where 95 percent of residents say they are smoke-free,” Glynn said.

Still, the annual Smokeout has its supporters.

“The Great American Smokeout is wonderful,” said Suzanne Starr, education services manager at Hendrick Cancer Center. “It encourages people. It has helped many people to quit using tobacco products. If they will quit for one day, it helps them know that they can quit permanently.”

Starr, who teaches tobacco cessation classes at Hendrick, added: “There are still people smoking and there are people, even young people, who are still starting to smoke. I have three teenagers in my class right now.”

She said states and cities with anti-smoking ordinances have fewer smokers “so they (ordinances) do help. In North Carolina, where they grow tobacco, they probably have a much higher rate.”

Starr’s next class will begin Jan. 4, after the holidays.

She also visits elementary schools in the Abilene Independent School District and other schools in Region 14 to encourage a tobacco-free lifestyle. Starr said the Texas State Department of Health Services reports that 25 percent of sixth-graders in Texas use some form of tobacco.

She is scheduled to visit Austin Elementary School on Friday and already has a trip planned to Cisco in January.

She said the Hendrick classes attract very few teenagers. According to Starr, a judge in the Abilene area ordered the three teenagers in the current class to attend because they were issued citations for smoking.

At least two Abilene businesses, Chick-fil-A in the Mall of Abilene and Jason’s Deli, hosted Great American Smokeout events Thursday. Restaurant managers at Chick-fil-A said that up until 4 p.m. on Thursday, customers who turned in a package of cigarettes or another tobacco product received a free sandwich; and from 5 to 8 p.m. at Jason’s Deli, customers received anti-smoking literature with balloons and coupons for children.

Dr. Ralph McCleskey, a local physician, said the Great American Smokeout “has impacted adults over the last decade, but new generations of adults are continuing to smoke.

“Have the rates of smoking increased in older adults? I don’t think so, but there are ‘new’ adults who started when they were young and have continued to smoke,” he said.

He said the increase revealed in the 2008 survey could be attributed to statistics that show that as many as 25 percent of high school students smoke.

“It’s an addiction,” he said, “and people have to be motivated to quit. This (Great American Smokeout) is a teachable moment.”

He called smoking “a major health catastrophe.” The CDC and says smoking is “the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.”

The Associated Press reported a general perception in the U.S. that smoking is a fading public health danger, but public health officials say any gains have been undermined by cuts in state tobacco control campaigns.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association, told the Associated Press that cigarette marketing has persisted and is effectively reaching young people and minorities. Cigarette prices continue to increase, but at a slower rate (63 percent from 1997 to 2004, compared with 2 percent from 2004 to 2008), according to the Associated Press.

The Great American Smokeout’s origins date to 1971, when a high school guidance counselor in Massachusetts asked people to give up smoking for a day and donate the money they saved to a college scholarship fund.

McCleskey said that in each of the last two sessions of the Texas Legislature, proposals for a statewide anti-smoking law have failed. “But the feeling is that this is an effort that is gaining momentum,” he added.

November 19, 2009 Reporternews

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