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Cancer Society Goal: Snuff Out Smoking, Not Smokers

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 1996 – When Nov. 21 comes around, will you quit smoking or help others quit?

That's the goal of The Great American Smokeout, a day set aside each year by the American Cancer Society to get smokers to take their last puff.

America's decades old antismoking crusade has recently become more politically and emotionally charged. Steadfastly with less sensationalism DoD moved toward a smokeless office environment. Today, few military installations, including the Pentagon, allow smoking indoors, and at any post or base, service members can get help kicking the smoking habit.

To this end, the services' health promotions offices gear up every November and will again Nov. 21 to help smokers quit. Smokers and nonsmokers can get information and assistance by visiting their local hospital or clinic or contacting a branch of the American Cancer Society in their area (listed in the business pages of telephone directories). They also can call the society tollfree at (800) 2272345.

Internet users don't have to wait for Nov. 21, however. They can access sites on the World Wide Web that offer information, answer questions, even sponsor contests. For a look, access the Internet through a web browser and open "The Great American Smokeout" at www.cancer.org/smokeout/. The site offers a Smokeout Pledge for schoolage children to complete and hand to their teacher. The form instructs teachers to mail the pledge to the American Cancer Society, which will use the information to promote its program to Congress and the White House.

In fact, this entire web site aims directly at children based on some disturbing information the American Cancer Society learned about youths and smoking:

  • More than 1 million kids will start smoking this year. Onethird of them will die from their addiction.
  • Nearly 90 percent of all new smokers are age 18 or younger.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported between 1991 and 1995, the proportion of high school students who smoked increased from onequarter to onethird. Today, nearly 40 percent of white high school females smoke and 44 percent of white high school males light up or use smokeless tobacco. The percentage of young black males who smoke doubled between 1991 and 1995, from 14.1 to 27.8.
  • Cigarettes kill more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.

To further challenge youthful smokers, the cancer society web site offers a variety of online activities, including brief spoken messages from well known entertainers, authors and business leaders; a quiz to test knowledge about smoking and health; and chances to win $1,000 and $700 shopping sprees.

"Three thousand kids start smoking, for keeps, each day in America," wrote Matthew Myers, executive vice president of the Campaign for TobaccoFree Kids, to Kentucky Sen. Wendell Ford. "Fully onethird of these kids will die prematurely as a result of their addiction."

According to the society, most of America's 46 million adult smokers want to quit. Like today's generation of puffers, they lit up for the first time at an average age of 13. By 14 1/2, they smoked daily. The Great American Smokeout, organizers said, can unite all Americans in snuffing out smoking and help prevent tobacco from snuffing out smokers.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe American Cancer Society developed The Great American Smokeout pledge for schoolchildren to fill out and hand to their teachers. The form instructs teachers to then mail the completed and signed forms to the society, which will use them to further its anti-smoking campaign. Details are available on the World Wide Web at www.cancer.org/smokeout/. The annual smokeout will be held Nov. 21. Contact local medical treatment facilities for details.  
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