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November 12, 2007

State public health director encourages smokers to kick the habit during the Great American Smokeout
Smoking kills one of every five people nationwide

SPRINGFIELD – With the state’s ban on smoking set to begin January 1, 2008, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, today encouraged smokers to kick the habit as part of the annual Great American Smokeout, Thursday, Nov. 15.

“Smoking can cause numerous health problems, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and premature death,” Dr. Arnold said.  “With the state’s smoke-free law going into effect in just seven weeks, there is no better time to quit smoking and enjoy the health benefits of not smoking.”

The Smoke-free Illinois Act, which was signed by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich earlier this year, bans smoking in workplaces and public places, including bars, restaurants and recreation venues.

Nearly 20,000 Illinoisans die each year as a result of tobacco use and approximately 2,000 non-smokers die from exposure to tobacco smoke.  According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for one of every five deaths in the United States.  In fact, cigarette smoking kills more Americans than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.

Smoking is also the single most important preventable cause of illness and death in the United States.  That’s why the American Cancer Society has sponsored the Great American Smokeout each year since 1976 on the third Thursday in November to encourage smokers to give up the habit for at least one day.

“Quite simply, there’s never been a better time to quit and there have never been better resources, or reasons, to encourage people to do so,” said American Cancer Society President of the Illinois Division Dr. Clement Rose.  “Nicotine is addictive.   Most smokers need inspiration and assistance to quit.  The Great American Smokeout is a great time to start.”

For those trying to quit, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) funds the Illinois QUITLINE, 1-866-QUIT-YES (1-866-784-8937) to offer encouragement and support, help creating a clear plan on how to quit, guidance on strategies, appropriate dosages for nicotine replacement therapy and  advice on healthy habits.

The Great American Smokeout Web site (www.cancer.org/greatamericans) features desktop helpers, including a Quit Clock and a Craving Stopper.  These tools can be downloaded to a computer desktop to help smokers pick a quit day, prepare for quitting, and offer support during and after quitting.  In addition, the site provides tips, tools, and resources.

Some benefits and incentives to quit smoking include:
• After 15 years, the risk of death for ex-smokers returns to nearly the level of persons who have never smoked.
• Male smokers who quit between ages 35 and 39 add an average of five years to their lives; women can add three years.  Even men and women who quit between the ages of 65 and 69 add one year to life expectancy.
• After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer for ex-smokers drops to as much as one-half that of those who continue to smoke.  The risk continues to decline the longer you stay smoke-free.
• One year after quitting, the excess rate of heart disease is reduced by half.  After 15 years of abstinence, the risk is similar to that of persons who have never smoked.
• Five to 15 years after quitting, the risk of stroke for ex-smokers returns to the level of those who have never smoked.


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