“Greater American Smokeout” encourages smokers to quit for 24 hours

If you’re a smoker, there is no better time than right now to put the cigarettes down.

Thursday is the Great American Smokeout. It’s a day to encourage smokers to quit for 24 hours and then take steps to quit for good.

According to the CDC, more people in the Mid-South smoke compared to people in most other parts of the country.

The CDC’s map says nearly one in five adults in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas smoke cigarettes.

“I hate to say it, but I am one of those kids that started smoking in high school because all the cool kids were doing it,” Brittany Russell of Arkansas said.

Russell started smoking cigarettes at an early age. Before she knew it, she was going through a pack a day.

“I got from where I went from just like regular cigarettes to the menthol cigarettes,” she said.

The nicotine started taking its toll on her body.

“It would get hard to wake up in the morning,” Russell said. “Just getting up and not being able to breathe, I would have all that extra phlegm. It was just disgusting.”

That’s when Russell knew it was time to make a change.

“I just decided one day, you know it tastes horrible. I feel horrible all the time. My clothes smell horrible. One day it just kind of clicked with me. I was just like, I can’t do this anymore,” she said.

The journey to stop smoking isn’t easy for everyone.

That’s why on the third Thursday in November, the American Cancer Society encourages people to put their cigarettes down for 24 hours during the “Great American Smokeout.”

Dr. Samuel Riney, an oncologist for Methodist Healthcare, said smokers can see and feel the effects almost immediately.

“It’s common to see things like heart rate and blood pressure decrease within those first 24 hours,” he said. “Carbon monoxide levels in the blood can also decrease in those 24 hours.”

Dr. Riney said the hope is smokers will then take additional steps to stop for good.

Since Russell stopped, she said her life has changed for the better.

“If you just hang in there, it comes out eventually, and you’re going to be a completely different person when it happens,” she said.

The American Cancer Society says lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death, and 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths are smoker-related.

Dr. Riney said early diagnoses and screening for lung cancer can save lives.

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