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In 1977, the American Cancer Society held the first nationwide Great American Smoke Out. Always held on the third Thursday in November, the Great American Smoke Out encourages smokers to quit for the day, or even better, to make a long-term commitment to beginning life without cigarettes on that day.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. One in two smokers will die from smoking-related disease, and for each one who dies there are another twenty who are living with serious smoking-related conditions and disease. Smoking is responsible for or linked to lung cancer, esophageal and laryngeal cancers, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes, asthma, impotence, decreased fertility, lowered immune systems, and increased wound healing times.

In 1977, approximately one-third of American adults smoked. Over the years, through various dedicated and persistent public health campaigns, legislation, taxation, and awareness, that number has been reduced to 19.3 percent. Unfortunately, tobacco use in the military is significantly higher than in the general population with approximately 31 percent of Navy and 37 percent of Marine Corps members smoking.

If you are a smoker, why not consider quitting tobacco, just for a day? Try getting through one complete day without the crutch of tobacco. You'll save about $6.00 if you're a pack-a-day smoker and in that one day, your blood pressure, pulse, carbon monoxide blood level, and oxygen blood level will return to normal. Your smoker's breath will even begin to disappear!

Branch Health Clinic Washington Navy Yard will be celebrating the day, Nov. 15 from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. by giving away "quit kits" for smokers. If you're the friend of a smoker, how about taking your friend to lunch for a "cold turkey" sandwich and a visit to the clinic for a quit kit if they agree to quit for the day? We'll have lots of information on the best ways to successfully quit and stay quit. If you are interested in additional help, please call the clinic Health Educator, Leigh Houck, at 202-433-6311.

Civilian participants in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program often have access to quit programs through their insurer of choice. In addition, state quit lines are available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and all Department of Defense employees can access quit information at www.ucanquit2.org. Another resource, created by The National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation, is web- accessible at www.becomeanex.org.

Start thinking about a life without cigarettes and remember, the Great American Smoke Out is a day where the quitters are the winners!