SIKESTON -- The American Cancer Society's 29th Annual Great American Smokeout will come and go today without much local fanfare: Perhaps local health officials figure those who want to quit already have and those who are still smoking don't want to quit.
The Great American Smokeout is national event created to educate the public on the dangers associated with tobacco use and to encourage smokers to quit for a lifetime starting with a single day.
Local anti-smoking efforts seem much more focused on targeting potential users and keeping secondhand smoke out of public areas.
Nothing special was planned today at county health departments in Scott and New Madrid counties or at Missouri Delta Medical Center, but Brenda Freed, health educator for Scott County, is two years in to a three-year Smokebusters program at Oran and Scott County Central schools.
"It's to educate the kids about tobacco use," said Freed. "The Missouri Department of Health sponsors this program."
As the focus this year is media coverage, members of the local media visited Oran schools Tuesday to educate Smokebusters' participants in ways to draft effective news releases and public service announcements to get the anti-
smoking message across.
"The first year they get a lot of education on tobacco," Freed said. "They learned about not only the dangers of smoking but what is actually in tobacco products, how they advertise to users, what it takes for tobacco companies to make their billions of dollars."
The final year of the course will educate participants on the steps needed to change policies.
Gerri Smith, health educator for New Madrid County Health Department, said she is in the process of trying to get some school officials in her county trained to present the Smokebusters program.
Freed said letting the Great American Smokeout come and go without actively participating doesn't mean they are giving up on those who are trying to quit.
"We do provide a program called 'Freedom from Smoking,'" she said. The American Lung Association program was offered this summer and is slated to run again in January for those trying to quit. "At the first of the year that might be a new year's resolution they may make," Freed said.
For those who would like to participate in the Great American Smokeout on an individual basis, the Society has an abundance of tobacco-related resources including an Internet site where information on the risks associated with smoking are readily available along with ideas to help smokers quit and ways to create smoke-free environments.
"Unfortunately, for every eight smokers who die from tobacco-related illnesses, they take one non-smoker with them. By offering these resources, our hope is that we will help smokers quit and enable employers to begin creating smoke-free environments," said Angela Hudson, regional director of health initiatives for the American Cancer Society in a recent American Smokeout press release. "Each day, numerous workers and patrons are exposed to the more than 60 known or probable carcinogens and 4,000 chemicals contained in secondhand smoke."
Support and information for smokers who want to quit is offered by the American Cancer Society on a 24-hour help line at 1-800-AACS-2345 and at their Web site at www.cancer.org.
The American Cancer Society, a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization, is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by using research, education, advocacy and service to prevent cancer, save lives, and diminish suffering from cancer.