Brownwood Regional Medical Center is taking a positive stand in its continuing efforts to not only treat, but also prevent, illness by instituting a smoke-free environment throughout its complex. But with the timing of the policy’s implementation, it is also drawing attention to a national event promoted by the American Cancer Society that encourages tobacco users everywhere to break the habit.

The Great American Smokeout, held annually on the third Thursday in November, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month.

The concept developed during the 1970s after local programs in both Massachusetts and Minnesota were held to support smokers who wanted to quit. The idea caught on, and on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. That California event marked the first Smokeout, and the cancer society took it nationwide in 1977.

An estimated 45 million U.S. adults smoke, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use can cause lung cancer, as well as other cancers, heart disease, and lung disease. Smoking is responsible for one in three cancer deaths, and one in five deaths from all causes. Another 8.6 million people are living with serious illnesses caused by smoking. But the past 30 years have seen tremendous strides in changing attitudes about smoking, in understanding the addiction and in learning how to help people quit.

Of course, quitting smoking — like losing weight — is not a one-day proposition. But the cancer society points that that’s important for smokers to set a day and make a plan either to stop cold turkey, to begin tapering off or to begin a proven nicotine substitute program. It takes a strong commitment over a long time to reach the goal. Smokers may wish there was a magic bullet, a pill or method that would make quitting painless and easy, but it takes tremendous willpower to shake the addiction. Many report having to start over repeatedly before succeeding.

Brownwood Regional Medical Center is doing its part, and so are numerous other offices and businesses. With the Smokeout arriving in nine days, the next move is up to smokers who have decided now is the time to quit.

Brownwood Bulletin