Health officials promote smoke-free lifestyle

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


One day can mark the beginning of a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle. And that day could be Thursday, according to Vicky Ayers, community educator with Henry Medical Center.

Ayers, and other health officials at the hospital, are joining with the American Cancer Society (ACS) in a campaign to encourage smokers to quit. The ACS plans to celebrate the 35th Great American Smokeout on Thursday, a day officials hope many smokers and tobacco users will see as a turning point to begin the process of quitting altogether.

Henry Medical Center is encouraging smokers to use Thursday as the day they make a plan to quit smoking, or at least, get people thinking they could go a day without smoking, said Ayers, also a registered nurse.

"We would really like for people to use that day to stop smoking for good, but the goal behind it is to encourage people to give up smoking for at least one day," said Elissa McCrary, regional communications and marketing director at ACS.

McCrary said the ACS and the ACS Cancer Action Network, also are calling on federal, state and local lawmakers and elected officials to protect the health of workers and patrons with the passage of a comprehensive smoke-free law

"With more than 3,000 municipalities, 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico now protected by strong smoke-free laws, more Americans are now able to dine out, or earn a living, without sacrificing their health," said Dr. John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the ACS.

"Still, hundreds of thousands of people nationwide remain exposed to second-hand smoke each day," Seffrin said. "It's time for all lawmakers to take a stand for public health and pass a smoke-free law that will protect all workers from this deadly, yet preventable, health hazard."

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, with 30 percent of all cancer deaths caused by tobacco use, as revealed in ACS' Cancer Facts & Figures 2010 Report.

The report states that tobacco accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, which equates to an estimated 157,300 deaths in 2010. And there will be an estimated 222,520 new cases of lung cancer this year.

However, the ill-effects of tobacco use reach far beyond lung cancer, added Ayers, a community educator. Ayers said she helps educate citizens on the various ways tobacco products negatively impact the health of its users and those around the users. She said smoking alone can harm one's respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems.

"People don't realize what all this does," said Ayers. The registered nurse noted that tobacco can cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. It contains 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens, and its use can increase the risk for cancers of the mouth, nose, throat, stomach, pancreas, kidney and bladder.

Ayers is the principle instructor of Henry Medical Center's ACS Fresh Start smoking cessation course. She said she regularly gets participants in the four-week-long program, who have misperceptions about quitting tobacco.

"A lot of people think that, once they develop the effects of smoking, it's not something that they can reverse," she said. Ayers said a smoker's body, within 20 minutes of smoking their last cigarette, begins a series of changes that continues for years, toward healthy recovery. That information, and other "quit" tips, are covered during her Fresh Start courses.

Henry Medical Center will begin its next Fresh Start course on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, she added. The four-week program consists of a one-hour session held each Tuesday, from 5:30 p.m., to 6:30 p.m., in the hospital's Foundation Education Center, 1133 Eagles Landing Parkway in Stockbridge.

Individuals participating in the Fresh Start course are given tips to aid in the stop-smoking process. To register, call Henry Medical Center's Community Education Department at (678) 604-1040, or visit the hospital's web site at www.henrymedical.com.