HANCOCK - According to Gail Ploe, tobacco use is still the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and premature death in Michigan, and she hopes the 37th American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout Thursday will help some tobacco users quit.
Ploe, prevention specialist at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, said although tobacco use among adults may be leveling out or dropping, use among teenagers, and even younger children, is increasing, and she thinks tobacco companies are targeting them with tempting products.
"They're packaged just like candy," she said.
Although she won't be making any visits outside her office, Ploe said some local schools will be conducting programs aimed at preventing or ending smoking by students with information she provided.
In her position, Ploe said she works with schools to help prevent or stop tobacco use, and chewing tobacco is a particular problem locally.
"We get a lot of that," she said.
For students who are caught on campus with tobacco, Ploe said she has an alternative to discipline called Tobacco 101, which is intended to help those students quit tobacco use.
On Thursday, Ploe said she expects people will be contacting her all day about quitting tobacco use.
"We're available to take calls," she said. "People will call."
It's unfortunate for some smokers the Great American Smokeout takes place Thursday, which is the start of the firearm deer season in Michigan.
"I'm pretty sure hunters who smoke aren't going to quit that day, but it plants a seed," she said.
Ploe said although she suggests people who want to stop using tobacco talk to their doctors, she's still contacted by many people hoping to stop.
"I get calls from people who have been referred to the health department by their doctors," she said.
Besides giving people printed information about ending tobacco use, Ploe said she'll refer them to websites where they can get more information.
"I'm limited by funding, but I will do whatever I can," she said.
The cost for cigarettes is about $180 a month, Ploe said, and the body will begin repairing any damage done by smoking in particular almost immediately, which means she will give two 100 percent guarantees to people who want to stop.
"You will have more money in your pocket and you will feel better," she said. "Two weeks after you stop, your heart attack risk drops and lung function improves."
However, at a certain point, the damage done by smoking is irreparable, Ploe said. Smokers have a greater risk than non-smokers of developing cancer in any part of the body.
Ploe said it helps for people who want to stop tobacco use to know how they want to do it.
"Like any important project you undertake, you need a plan," she said. "In a decade of working with tobacco, I've never met a smoker who regretted quitting."
For more information about the Great American Smokeout or about quitting tobacco use generally, call Ploe at 482-7382 ext. 122, call the Michigan Department of Community Health at 800-784-8669 or go online to michigan.gov/tobacco.