Smokers Encouraged to Quit During 'Great American Smokeout'

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

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By Heather Hubbs

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from illnesses caused by tobacco use. Yet 44 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.

The American Cancer Society is challenging all smokers to take the first step toward quitting. Thursday is the "Great American Smokeout."

No matter how long someone has smoked, quitting can improve their health. If a smoker put out their last cigarette now, their heart rate and blood pressure drops within 20 minutes. Within 2-3 months, circulation and lung function increases. After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

One year after quitting the risk of heart disease is cut in half. Within 5 years, the risk of stroke falls to that of a non-smoker, and within 10 years the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.

Jo Marie Butz admits quitting smoking was the hardest thing she ever did. She started smoking at age 15, then along with her partner quit for 23 years before lighting up yet again.

"He passed away six years ago and I started back up from depression," Butz said. "I knew I needed to quit. I got the newsletter from Mercy that said they had a no-smoking class, and I called and said 'can I get in.'"

Butz did get in to the smoking cessation class at Mercy. That, combined with support from friends and medication from her doctor, helped her kick the habit for good. She has now been smoke free for one year and 7 months. Mercy holds smoking cessation classes each month; the classes meet one day a week for four weeks.

Mercy is also holding a seminar Thursday night on tobacco use and the impact it can have on the body. That seminar is set from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Mercy's Hall-Perrine Cancer Center.
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