A good day to quit smoking

Thursday is the Great American Smokeout, when those who smoke are encouraged either to quit or at least make plans toward breaking the habit.

And the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department is ready to help.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in Michigan, killing more than 16,000 residents each year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Yet many Michiganders still use tobacco — 20.4 percent of Michigan adults, compared with U.S. national data of 15.1 percent. Perhaps worse, 10 percent of Michigan’s youth smoke cigarettes daily, compared with 8 percent nationally.

Smokers, on average, die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers and in Michigan cost $4.6 billion annually for health care, with $1.4 billion in Medicaid costs.

More than half of these tobacco users have tried to quit for at least one day during the past year, according to the DIDHD, adding the highly addictive nature of tobacco products means most users will make several attempts to quit before they are successful.

So, how to raise the odds that attempt has a better chance of lasting? Enter DIDHD and the Great American Smokeout.

Research shows that while quitting is difficult for most tobacco users, quitters are most successful when using a combination of therapies, including resources such as nicotine replacement, counseling, self-help materials and a strong support network of family and friends.

“The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity to remind tobacco users that there are resources available to help them quit, and to support tobacco users in their efforts to quit,” said Kelly Rumpf, health educator at DIDHD. “Quitting tobacco use is the best thing you can do for your health. Within minutes to hours after quitting, blood pressure, heart rate and carbon monoxide levels decrease, and the long-term benefits continue over time, including improved lung function and decreased risk of cancer and heart disease.”

Resources available to Michigan residents include:

— The MDHHS Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, continues to provide free telephone coaching for the uninsured and those with Medicaid and Medicare, and free nicotine replacement medications for those who qualify. Information on quitting smoking and a free printable Michigan Smoker’s Quit Kit are available through MDHHS by going to www.michigan.gov/tobacco.

— BecomeAnEX.org is a free, interactive website that shows smokers how to re-learn life without cigarettes. The site, developed by Truth Initiative in partnership with Mayo Clinic, offers a free, personalized quit plan and an online support community to help people prepare to quit and stay quit.

— The American Cancer Society has tools available to help with quitting. For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. Information also is available on the American Cancer Society’s Web site at www.cancer.org.

For help in quitting smoking contact any of the resources above or call your local family physician.

Give it a try. If you’ve tried before, give it another go. The only harm is in not making the attempt.