Nicotine is addictive. There is no safe cigarette. Smoking damages every organ in the body.

Such messages reach most every American daily, and yet 43 million people still smoke, causing an estimated 400,000 deaths each year. What do people need to convince them to quit to successfully battle this addiction? Perhaps they need a reason to start.

Millions of Americans chose the third Thursday in November to do just that Ė on the Great American Smokeout. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society nationally since 1977, the Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to stop using tobacco for just a single day. After that, the challenge is to continue the healthy practice for one more day, every day afterward. Even if itís not the first attempt to stop, itís worth doing, because every time a smoker tries to kick the ha habit, his or her chances of being successful increase.

While the Smokeout cannot claim total responsibility, national statistics show the smoking rate among U.S. adults is continuing to inch downward, and so is the number of people diagnosed with cancers linked to tobacco use. The rate has fallen steadily since the late 1990s.

Increased cigarette taxes, workplace smoking bans and state-based prevention efforts are the main reasons for the decline, according to national health organizations. But concern is mounting that funding cutbacks on health programs might jeopardize that success.

On Thursday, though, what it happening nationally is of little consolation to the individual smoker who decides to accept the challenge. Seven out of 10 smokers say they would like to stop, but it is one of the toughest addictive habits to break. Only 5 to 10 percent who try succeed. But the only real failure is not trying again.

The cancer society says using a stop-smoking medication, finding help through support groups and letting friends and family members know what youíre trying to do are ways to improve the odds. And as restrictions continue to expand on places where smoking is allowed, the opportunities to smoke dwindle.

Itís not the easiest thing a person will ever try to do. But thanks to the national attention the Smokeout brings on the effort, the additional support smokers trying to quit need from others might be generated. With it will come the chance for a longer and healthier life.

Brownwood Bulletin