Thursday, November 10, 2005
Smokeout encourages smokers to kick the habit

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Medical director
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

There are some annual events that everyone knows about and anticipates. These include holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also include things like the Super Bowl. However, there are many other annual events that are not well known. They are also not looked at with great anticipation for that reason. One of these events occurs on the third Thursday in November. It has been occurring for over 20 years. It is called the Great American Smokeout. I wrote about this event last year and decided it was a good idea to repeat the suggestions. The idea behind the event is to set a date for smokers to think about quitting. One fact about giving up smoking is that it is easier to do when a specific date is picked. This allows that specific date to be set. This year's event is Thursday, Nov. 17. Smokers cannot quit until they decide that they want to. Many cigarette smokers have no desire to quit. This is an opportunity to help convince them that perhaps it is time to set a date to think about starting down that road. They may not be successful. However, until they take the first step in deciding that it is time to do something about their unhealthy habit, they will never get there. Some smokers want to quit. However, they keep delaying trying to do so. The Great American Smokeout offers them an opportunity to set a particular date to start. Nicotine addiction is a difficult one to break. It requires a great effort on the part of the smoker. It also requires significant support from those around the individual. That support must come in the form of continued encouragement. The encouragement is most important for the first seven days. Those are the days when the urge is the strongest. It is related to the physical withdrawal from the nicotine. Unfortunately that urge to return to the addiction never does disappear. The psychological need continues for long after the smoker quits. That is why many smokers quit repeatedly before they are finally successful. What all this means to the non-smokers is that they must be supportive of efforts to quit. That is true for the Great American Smokeout. There should be encouragement in advance. There should be encouragement on the day itself.

One of the goals should be to have confirmed smokers become smokers who are trying to quit. The other goal should be to help those who are trying to quit become ex-smokers. Both of those goals require support. That support must not end the day after the Great American Smokeout. It must go on full force for the next week until the physical addiction is conquered. At that point it can take the form of positive reinforcement to the individual who has succeeded. We should think about the significance of having this annual event exactly seven days before Thanksgiving. Just think how many more things a family can be thankful for if there is one less smoker in the household. Ex-smokers can be thankful that they will live longer. They can be thankful that their families will not lose them to one of the many premature deaths that cigarettes cause. Spouses can be thankful that they will not become widows or widowers prematurely. Children can be thankful that they will not lose their parents to a cigarette-related death. Children can also be thankful that their parents will live long enough to see their grandchildren. Grandchildren can be thankful that they will have an opportunity to be very spoiled by their grandparents. Smoking affects our lives in so many ways. It deprives us of loved ones prematurely on a regular basis. It makes the quality of life for patients with emphysema miserable for years before their deaths. The Great American Smokeout offers an annual opportunity for smokers and non-smokers to work together to ensure our families can celebrate the well known and highly anticipated Thanksgiving holiday in a more meaningful fashion.

Diabetes expo to feature exhibits, screenings

More than 50 exhibitors will showcase health services, supplies and programs to residents with diabetes at the Delaware Diabetes Expo, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Sheraton Dover Hotel. The event is organized by the Delaware Diabetes Coalition and Delaware's Division of Public Health. Several screenings, including blood sugars, blood pressure and foot care, will be offered. A brown bag lunch including a sandwich, fruit and beverage will be available for $5. For more information, call the Delaware Diabetes Coalition at 302-424-3007 or Division of Public Health at 302-741-2900.