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Groups educating about dangers of all forms of tobacco use

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great American Smokeout

SIKESTON -- Kick a bad habit in the butt: participate in the American Cancer Society's 31st annual Great American Smokeout today.

"Here is a day that not only you can stop smoking, but you are going to be with tons of other Americans who are quitting," said Marcie Lawson, community manager of health initiatives at the American Cancer Society in Sikeston. "We've found one of the hardest things to do is set a date to quit smoking. With the Great American Smokeout we're setting that date for you."

Easier than quitting is never starting in the first place. As part of this year's Great American Smokeout, Lawson said she is scheduled to speak to students at Matthews Elementary on Friday and is working on a time to speak with students at Lee Hunter Elementary.

"We've found the younger the better to start educating kids about smoking," Lawson said. "I've also got educational materials that I like to send out to primary care physicians so they can remind their patients that this is a good time to quit."

Smokers who are looking for help to quit smoking can call 1-800-ACS-234 for educational materials and counselors, she advised.

"Because of our location, the Great American Smokeout should also apply to spit-tobacco users," Lawson added. She said those who use chewing tobacco, dip and snuff call the same number for help in quitting those products.

"I think it important to realize that the number one way to prevent cancer is by not smoking," Lawson said. "In this day and age there is no one who hasn't been affected by cancer in some form or fashion. We have not found a way to prevent cancer but quitting smoking will dramatically reduce your risk."

While the Scott County Health Department isn't doing anything additional today, they have several ongoing programs that can help someone who kicks the smoking habit, according to Brenda Freed, public education officer for the Sikeston office.

Freed said those interested in trying the "Freedom from Smoking" program to quit smoking can call the Scott County Health Department.

The Department also has a Breathe Easy Coalition. "It's to raise awareness on second-hand smoke," she said. "If there are any work sites or restaurants interested in becoming smoke-free they can give us a call and we can help them with that."

Lawson said she recently helped the Department with Smokebusters, a training program by the Missouri Department of Health, in a conjunction with the American Lung Association.

The program, which educates junior high and high school kids about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, trains 12-15 students and a sponsor from a school who then go back to their school to educate their fellow students.

"Our goal is for them to become advocates against tobacco," Freed said. The students are encouraged to work toward changing tobacco policy at school, community or even the state level.