DEAR ABBY: In 1990, you gave the nation's smokers a wonderful gift the week before Thanksgiving: a column encouraging them to participate in the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.
Your support helped millions across the country make the decision to quit smoking, at least for the day. Your column was a terrific morale-booster for our 2.5 million American Cancer Society volunteers in the United States.
Would you please run that lovely Smokeout column again? And thank you for your continued help in the fight against cancer. -- LINDA S. HAASE, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY, ILLINOIS DIVISION
DEAR MS. HAASE: With pleasure!
DEAR READERS: Tomorrow, Nov. 21, 1991, will mark the 15th Annual Great American Smokeout, a one-day campaign to encourage smokers to quit smoking for 24 hours, just to prove they can do it.
Last year, 19 million smokers tried to quit for the day. This represents 38 percent of the nation's 50 million smokers. Breast cancer used to be the biggest killer for women. But the No. 1 cause of cancer death among women and men today is lung cancer. Tobacco claims one life every 13 seconds. An estimated 143,000 will die of lung cancer in 1991.
And now, a word about smoking-related diseases -- emphysema, chronic bronchitis and heart disease: This year an estimated 434,000 will die from one of these. This total exceeds the number of U.S. battle deaths in World War II -- nine times as many people who die in automobile accidents every year.
A congressional study has reported that health costs from the adverse effects of smoking have reached a new high of $100 billion a year in increased medical bills and lost productivity. The loss in death and disability cannot be measured.
What about "secondhand" smoke? Is it damaging to non-smokers to be in the presence of those of you who are smoking? Yes! One non-smoker dies of secondhand smoke for every eight smokers. And studies reveal that the children of smokers are more prone to lung problems and allergies than are children of non-smokers.
For years I have begged my young readers, "If you smoke, quit now. If you don't smoke, don't start!" Yet an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 kids light up for the first time every day. Why? Peer pressure, no doubt. Cigarette companies sell $1 billion of cigarettes to children each year.
Quitting "cold turkey" is the hardest way to quit, but my readers tell me it's the most effective, and in the long run, the easiest. Those who need help to break their habit: Call your local chapter of the American Cancer Society or call (800) 227-2345 for information.
If you're hooked, and have been telling yourself, "One of these days I'm going to quit," why not start tomorrow? It won't be easy -- but it will be the best Thanksgiving present you can give yourself -- and those who love you. -- Love, Abby