Nearly 21 percent of Americans smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ready to quit smoking?
If you’re not, you can begin planning your strategy to kick the habit today, which marks the 34th annual Great American Smokeout, a day smokers across the nation are asked to stop puffing for the day and plan their way to quit.
Tobacco use continues to be the single most preventative cause of disease and premature death in the nation, according to the American Cancer Society, causing approximately 443,000 premature deaths a year.
New York City has been tough with smokers over the years. The city has produced aggressive campaigns and imposed strict regulations on smoking, including the one banning smoking in bars and restaurants.
Some of the latest campaigns against smoking showcases a tar-stained lung caused by years of puffing. Another ad campaign featured a Bronx woman who suffered from 20 smoking-related amputations.
Only 16 percent of city dwellers smoke, one of the lowest rates in the nation, but 1.3 million New Yorkers still can’t kick the habit.
That's why clinics across the city are handing out free nicotine patches and gum.
“We know that quitting smoking is tough and that most smokers have to try several times before quitting for good,” said Alan G. Thorson, MD, FACS, national volunteer president for the American Cancer Society. “The American Cancer Society offers a variety of effective resources ranging from online tips and tools to personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists.”
Ronnie Cox, a 53-year-old from Brooklyn, was aware of the dangers of smoking, but it didn’t take Cox aback to learn that 7,400 city dwellers die from diseases related to smoking yearly.
"I haven't really tried that hard to quit," Cox told the Daily News during his smoking break in midtown yesterday. "I do it because of stress and because it's a habit," he said. "I sit down and drink my coffee and I smoke."
“It’s not healthy, but everybody has a vice,” he said.
Patrice Fortune, 48, of Manhattan, told the News she has cut back. She used to smoke two packs a day but is now down to 10 cigarettes following her open-heart surgery. She’s not ready to quit all the way.
David Fahrer, 46, said he quit smoking on his 45th birthday, but didn’t last because of stress.
"Last year was a tough year for my business. I have a lack of will power, and I slowly started again," he said, the paper reported.
Fahrer won't be participating in today's smokeout, along with Cox and Fortune.
"What does it do for a day?" said Fahrer.
“We hope that smokers will use the Great American Smokeout to map out a course of action that will help them to quit, and in turn to stay well and celebrate more birthdays,” Thorson said.
For more information, visit the Great American Smokeout page at the American Cancer Society, and for smokers who need help, call the American Cancer Society Quit For Life® Program operated and managed by Free & Clear® at 1-800-227-2345.
New York and New Jersey each have their own smokers quitlines. In New Jersey, call 1-866-NJ-STOPS and in New York, call 1-866-NY-QUITS.