DEAR ABBY: In the past you have encouraged people who are trying to kick their addiction to tobacco to "quit for a day" by participating in the Great American Smokeout. You have given many smokers the inspiration they needed to quit smoking.
This year, we at the American Cancer Society are urging all smokers to stop smoking, and stressing to young people the importance of not starting. Teens and pre-adolescents must be made to understand that there is nothing glamorous about smoking. Smoking and using smokeless tobacco products can, and will, kill them. Our message to kids is: Don't start using tobacco products of any kind!
Abby, please alert your readers to the Great American Smokeout again this year. Thank you for your continued dedication and help in the fight against cancer. -- JUNE K. ROBINSON, M.D., PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS DIVISION, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
DEAR DR. ROBINSON: I'm pleased to announce that tomorrow, Nov. 21, 1996, will mark the American Cancer Society's 20th Annual Great American Smokeout.
DEAR READERS: The Smokeout is a one-day campaign to encourage smokers to quit smoking for 24 hours -- to prove that they can do it. Last year, more than 11 million smokers quit for the day -- that's a giant step in the right direction!
An estimated 450,000 Americans will die from smoking-related diseases in 1996. That means tobacco will claim 51 lives every hour in the United States. An estimated 158,700 of them will die from lung cancer. These numbers are staggering -- more than the combined number of people who will die in one year from alcohol, AIDS, crack, cocaine, murder and fire. The total exceeds the number of U.S. battle deaths in World War II, is eight times the number of those killed in Vietnam, and is 10 times the number who die annually in automobile accidents.
For years I have implored my young readers, "If you smoke, quit now. If you don't smoke, don't start." Unfortunately, today one in five teen-agers smokes, and the number of kids using tobacco is growing. More than 80 percent of smokers report that they started during their teens; every day another 3,000 get hooked. Now I'm urging: "Be smart -- don't start!"
There was a time not too long ago when lung cancer in women was relatively uncommon. However, if women continue to smoke at their current rate, it is estimated that early in the next century more women than men will die of lung cancer.
Does secondhand smoke affect non-smokers? You bet it does! According to a definitive report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1993, secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen on a par with asbestos and radon. The report also showed that children of smokers are more prone to lung problems and allergies than children of non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is also a significant risk factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Therefore, if you are an adult and you must smoke, don't smoke in the presence of children.
My readers tell me that while "cold turkey" is the most difficult, it is the most effective way to kick the habit. Those who need help or want more information about the effects of tobacco may call the local chapter of the American Cancer Society or 1-800-ACS-2345.
So, Dear Readers, if you're hooked on tobacco and have been saying, "One of these days, I'm going to quit," why not join the Great American Smokeout and quit tomorrow? It won't be easy, but it will be the best Thanksgiving gift you can give yourself, and those who love you.