Written by Jenna Flynn
If my grandpa would have been able to quit smoking, it would have meant so many things for our family . . .
He would’ve travelled to Green Bay to watch my high school volleyball team make a trip to state for the first time in school history.
He would’ve attended my college graduation, my wedding, and my brother’s wedding.
He would have been able to welcome my brother home, a veteran returning from Iraq after being deployed for a year.
He would’ve witnessed the birth of his first and second great-grandchildren.
He would have continued to join us on our annual family summer fishing trip to Canada.
But there was none of that.
My grandpa wasn’t a selfish man. He was simply addicted to nicotine — a substance that, for someone who is addicted, research has shown can be as difficult to quit as some illicit drugs.
His smoking addiction ultimately gave him lung cancer and took his life way too soon.
* * *
Most of us know someone — or maybe YOU are — affected by the devastating impact that a smoking addiction can have.
It’s heartbreaking for family members and friends to watch their loved ones struggle, wishing they could quit. It’s hard to accept that users almost always know what terrible fate they have sealed for themselves by not stopping.
Most people know that smoking is bad for one’s health. There’s been a great deal of education and outreach done to address this public health issue, but there is still more work to be done . . .
Sure, sometimes people who don’t quit smoking do beat the odds. You’ve heard about old Aunt Millie who’s been smoking for 50 years and is as healthy as an ox, right? Or Great Uncle Fred who has chewed tobacco since he was 13 years old and nothing has ever come of it. We’ve all heard those stories.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality for my family. My grandpa didn’t beat the odds. He lost his battle with lung cancer very quickly.
If you are reading this and thinking,
Where do people start when they want to quit?
How do they do it?
What support is available?
Please read on . . .
The Great American Smokeout is an event that occurs every third Thursday in November (for 2018, it falls on November 15). It’s hosted by the American Cancer Society and has been taking place for over 40 years. It’s a chance for people across the country to join together to use this day to establish a quit plan. (If interested, you can read more about how the Great American Smokeout began here.)
Even though there has been a lot in the news about the vaping epidemic among teens and the terrible impacts of abusing illegal substances like opioids, we tend to forget about cigarette smoking. While this addiction typically doesn’t cause people to lose their homes because of the high cost or to go to prison due to drug-related crimes, it is one of the most deadly addictions. In fact:
Smoking is still the #1 cause of preventable death and disease in the world.
Recent data show that, at 15%, Marathon County compares to the state average (17%) for smoking rates and is on par with the national average (15.5%).
If you or someone you love is a smoker, November 15 — the Great American Smokeout — could be a great day to consider quitting smoking.
If you want to help a family member or friend quit, you may first want to read Helping a Smoker Quit: Do’s and Don’ts.
In addition, you’ll want to understand that quitting a smoking addition is a challenging journey.
If you do currently smoke, try to give yourself a little grace.
We are all human, and chances are that you’ve already attempted to quit in the past. It’s much easier said than done.
For those of you who have never smoked who get frustrated by others’ not quitting, think about how much you enjoy your screen time or favorite hobby. Now imagine how hard it would be to remove it from your life entirely. That gives you a tiny idea of how addiction feels.
So, please don’t give others grief about relapsing. Instead, commend them for the attempt that they made. Even small efforts — like going one whole day without smoking or decreasing the amount of cigarettes smoked in one day — will bring about health benefits, as can be seen below.
So, let’s join together in honor of the Great American Smokeout — those who smoke and those who don’t — to consider either quitting or supporting our loved ones in making the decision to quit smoking.
Big Tobacco spends $9 billion per year on marketing.
It doesn’t care about us. It cares about making a profit. But we’re not just marketing targets. We are family members, loved ones, friends, parents, grandparents, and mentors.
We can do this TOGETHER.
As Thanksgiving approaches and we reflect on what we are most thankful for, I think about how much I cherished the memories made and the time spent with my grandpa.
I just wish there could’ve been more . . .
If you’d like to be part of this movement on November 15, I invite you to call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition.
I wish you and your family success!
Public Health Educator | Marathon County Health Department
Tobacco Control Coordinator | Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition
Jenna Flynn is a Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department and serves as the Tobacco Control Coordinator for the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition. Jenna holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Public Health. She grew up in Northern Wisconsin and is proud to serve the central region. In her free time, Jenna enjoys coaching and playing volleyball, cooking, and participating in the many outdoor activities that Wisconsin has to offer. Email Jenna Flynn.
Great American Smokeout image by the American Cancer Society.
Cigarette image by Trostle via Pixabay.
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