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Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., yet an estimated 45 million Americans still smoke. Research shows that most people try to quit smoking seven to 10 times before they succeed, and almost half of these smokers have tried to quit for at least one day in the past year. Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success if you get help. If you relapse, think of it as practice for the next step to success.

Most people know using tobacco can cause lung cancer, but few are aware it’s also a risk factor for many other kinds of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, voice box (larynx), throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, stomach and some forms of leukemia. It’s also linked to a number of other health problems, from having a stroke, to heart disease and emphysema. There is no safe way to use tobacco. Cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and other types of smokeless tobacco all pose serious health risks.

Every day, the American Cancer Society (ACS) works to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. If you quit smoking, you can take one of the most important steps toward helping make this a reality.

Depending on the age they are when they quit, ex-smokers can add up to nine or 10 more birthdays to their lives. Those who quit smoking at a younger age can add more years of life, but nearly everyone who quits adds to their lifespan and improves their quality of life. Overall, one-third of cancer deaths could be prevented if people avoided tobacco products.

Need more motivation to quit? It takes just minutes for your body to start healing after you quit smoking. You can look forward to better circulation and lung function as well as an improved sense of taste and smell. These days, when every penny counts, you’ll also save money since you’ll no longer buy cigarettes.

If you want to quit smoking or help someone to quit, the Great American Smokeout, Nov. 15, is a great time to start. For tips on steps to take to quit smoking, or to get involved in the fight against tobacco, contact the tobacco cessation counselors in the Integrated Health Services/Internal Medicine Department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). They can provide resources and support that can increase your chances of quitting successfully.

For more information, call 301-295-8773 to learn about available services or to make an appointment. Integrated Health Services offers individual appointments, a one-time class option each month, as well as an online program. You can also find free tips and tools online at www.cancer.org/smokeout; www.ucanquit2.org; www.c hewfree.com; www.smokefree.gov; or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. The ACS also offers applications on social networks to help you quit or join the fight against tobacco.

Five keys to help quit smoking are:

1. Get ready.

ŸSet a quit date.

ŸChange your environment: Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car and workplace.

ŸGo over your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what didn’t.

ŸOnce you quit, don’t smoke again not even a puff!

ŸDon’t let people smoke in your home/car.

2. Get support and encouragement.

Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help.

ŸTell your family, friends and coworkers that you are going to quit and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you, and ask them to put their cigarettes out of sight.

ŸTell your health care provider (doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist or smoking counselor) about your decision to quit.

ŸGet individual, group or telephone counseling. Programs are often given at local hospitals and health centers. Call Integrated Health Services at 301-295-8773 or ACS 1-800-227-2345 for information about programs in your area.

3. Learn new skills and behaviors.

ŸTry to distract yourself from urges to smoke. Talk to someone, go for a walk or get busy with a task.

4. Get medication, and use it correctly.

Medications can help you stop smoking and lessen the urge to smoke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the following medications to help you quit smoking:

ŸAvailable by prescription nicotine inhaler, nicotine nasal spray and other prescription medication.

ŸAvailable over-the-counter nicotine gum, nicotine patch and nicotine lozenges.

5. Be prepared for a relapse or difficult situations.

Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. Don’t be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit for good. Here are some difficult situations to watch for:

ŸAlcohol - When you drink alcohol, it lowers your chances of success. It’s best to avoid drinking.

ŸOther smokers - When you’re around people who smoke, it can make you want to smoke. It’s best to avoid them.

ŸWeight gain - Many smokers gain weight when they quit, usually fewer than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don’t let weight gain distract you from your main goal quitting smoking. Some smoking-cessation medicines may help delay weight gain.

ŸBad mood or depression - There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking (take a walk or watch a funny movie).

If you or someone you know needs help quitting, join thousands of people across the country in making Nov. 15 the day you make a plan to quit for good, during the Great American Smokeout.

For more information, call Carolyn Mesnak, Integrated Health Services/Internal Medicine, at 301-295-8773.