HANCOCK - With a calculator in hand, Gail Ploe put statistics in perspective for pack-a-day smokers.
"There are 20 cigarettes in a pack and the average smoker gets 10 inhalations off of each cigarette," she calculated. "That's 200 hits of nicotine every day and 73,000 doses in a year."
Ploe, who is the prevention specialist for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, said the American Cancer Society has designated today as the 36th Great American Smokeout Day. The purpose is to encourage smokers to use the day to make a plan to quit.
Kelly Fosness/Daily Mining Gazette
S.A.D.D. Chapter President Crystal Sochay, left, and Jessica Fife, both seniors at Calumet High School, set up a display of healthy and diseased lungs. The student organization is raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco use during lunch hour at the school today in recognition of the American Cancer Society’s 36th Great American Smokeout.
"I really try to get a message of hope to smokers," Ploe said. "In 2010, 68.8 percent of adult smokers wanted to stop smoking. More than half had made a quit attempt in the past year."
Ploe said it usually takes four or five serious efforts before smokers quit the habit for good. In that case, she said, it's important to try and stay positive.
"Don't stop trying because you learn from every past attempt," she said. "You know what didn't work last time and you know what triggers to avoid."
In recognition of the Great American Smokeout, Calumet High School students, who are members of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), are setting up a display during lunch hour today to help inform and educate peers about the dangers associated with tobacco use.
"Part of the reason we're doing this is because a lot of people start smoking when they're in middle school," senior Jessica Fife said. "We have brochures and stuff to raise awareness."
Information about health consequences, dangers of secondhand smoke, and cost of tobacco use will be provided.
Fife said they borrowed the display, which includes models of healthy and diseased lungs, and a jar of "teeth in tobacco juice," among other informational materials, from the health department.
"We're going to be answering questions," she said. "Not only are we trying to promote SADD, but we're showing that we can be positive role models."
According to the ACS, tobacco use remains the world's most preventable cause of death. Cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 premature deaths, including 49,400 in nonsmokers. Thirty percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, can be attributed to smoking, and smoking accounts for more than $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses annually.
In addition to adverse health impacts, Ploe said there's the fact that smoking is a costly habit.
"(Cigarettes) are about $7 a pack, so if you smoke a pack a day for one month, you're at $210," she said. "Providing the price stays the same, that's $2,548 a year."
Ploe said the average smoker smokes about 24 years before they successfully quit.
But once they do, the benefits of quitting are almost instant.
According to the ACS, 20 minutes after quitting, heart rate and blood pressure drops. Twelve hours after, the carbon monoxide level in the blood returns to normal. Two weeks to three months after, circulation improves and lung function increases. One to nine months after, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. One year after, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
"If you love someone who smokes and you really want them to quit, lecturing never works," Ploe said. "Encourage them and offer support, but don't wag a finger at them."
There's never been a better time to quit, she added, because nowadays there's pharmaceutical options, nicotine replacement and support.
"If you try something and it doesn't work, you can try other options," Ploe said.
Smoking, for many, is automatic, like buckling a seatbelt after getting in the car. One of the most effective tricks that helps to interrupt the automatic habit is "pack tracks," Ploe said.
"People make a little card that fits in the cellophane of their cigarettes and they actually track every cigarette they smoke," she said. "It makes them aware of how often they're smoking and why they are smoking."
People are to note what their mood was when they had a cigarette and more importantly, jot down their need for it.
"Smokers will find they're smoking when they're bored," she said. "If people start weaning themselves, it makes it so much easier than going cold turkey. Cold turkey is great the day after Thanksgiving. It's not a great way to quit smoking. You need a plan."
Ploe said there are online resources like michigan.gov/tobacco, where people can download a quit kit. Additional websites include quitnet.com, which offers support, chat and message boards, and whyquit.com.
The Quit Line (1-800-Quit-Now) is also a support option.
For more information, call the health department at 482-7382 ext. 122.