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Great American Smokeout Thursday

By Mark Shaffer

The Tribune

Even with the number of people who smoke on the decline, there are agencies still working to help snuff out smoking altogether.

Thursday is the 32nd annual Great American Smokeout sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

The Great American Smokeout challenges smokers to stop using tobacco products and raises awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good.

To that end, the Lawrence County Health Department has a number of programs to help smokers kick the butts. Some are simple reminders from children.

The department sponsored a contest where children could draw a picture with the theme of “Kids need breathing space.”

Originally, the winner of the contest would get their artwork put onto placements that would be distributed throughout Lawrence County. Instead, there are 34 pictures on the mat.

“The drawings were just so cute that we just had to show all of them,” said Maxine Lewis, a health educator with the Lawrence County Health Department.

Lewis said that research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guide books, and the encouragement of friends and family members.

Locally, the Liebert Corp. is having its third annual “Go Cold Turkey” event tied in with the Great American Smokeout. And this year, the Lawrence County Jobs and Family Services agency has joined up for the first time.

In the “Go Cold Turkey” program, smokers are paired with non-smoking workers for moral support. The smoker starts their day with a Smokerlyzer test to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in their system.

They will also be given a “goody bag” containing gum, mints, a straw and suckers to help them through the day. At the end of the day, the smokers will be tested again to see if they had been tobacco free. Those who are smoke-free will have their and their partner’s name placed in a drawing for a turkey.

Gene Myers, director of Lawrence County Jobs and Family Services, said the reason he wanted to join the “Go Cold Turkey” program was because of how smoking affects people’s health and the cost of insurance.

“We don’t have a really good healthy workplace program in place and when (Lewis) called and asked if we wanted to participate, I said, ‘Yes,’ of course,” he said. “My main interest was raising awareness of the health issues and the costs that go along with smoking.”

Myers said he would like to see an entirely smoke-free workplace.

“If I had my druthers, yes,” he said, adding that state law prohibits anyone from smoking in the building. “I would encourage anyone to stop smoking.”

Lewis said the goal of the Great American Smokeout is to try to keep people aware that smoking is the cause of many preventable diseases such as lung cancer and 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.

“Quitting is the best way to prevent a lot of these diseases,” Lewis said. “We need to keep working at it. People need to keep thinking about quitting.”

The roots of the smokeout go back to 1971 when the citizens of Randolf, Mass., were challenged to give up cigarettes on Nov. 20 and then donate money they saved to a high school scholarship fund. High school guidance counselor Arthur P. Mullaney coined the term Smokeout for the event.

The town, with a population of about 18,000, raised $4,500 for the scholarship. In 1976, the American Cancer Society took the campaign national and came up with the name.

To get more information about programs, call the Lawrence County Health Department at (740) 532-3962 or visit its location at 2122 South 8th St., Ironton.

Information is also available through the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or www.cancer.org.

The Ohio Tobacco Quitline provides such free services to the residents of Ohio. To get more information about the Quitline, call 1-800-784-8669.