Thursday, Nov. 18 marked the 35th Great American Smokeout, where thousands of people were encouraged to stop using tobacco for a day – or even plan to quit.
It’s Not Just Lung Cancer
The American Cancer Society reports that more than 80% of lung cancer cases result from smoking, and more people die from lung cancer than any other cancer. Approximately 46 million American adults smoke, which will cause nearly half to die prematurely.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that smoking can also lead to oral cancer, the death rate for which is higher than that of many other familiar cancers. Oral cancer is expected to cause more than 8,000 deaths this year, which is approximately one per hour, a rate which has not improved very much in the last several decades. By the end of 2010, the American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 35,000 Americans will have been diagnosed with oral cancer.
Those are not encouraging statistics. However, with events like the Great American Smokeout, people are becoming more and more aware of just how badly smoking damages your health.
The American Cancer Society started the initiative in 1977 to encourage smokers who want to quit and change the way society views tobacco use. The year before the first nationwide event, California succeeded in getting nearly one million people put down their cigarettes for the day. It has steadily grown over the years, now including parades, rallies, booths, local resources and quitting information throughout the nation.
An article at change.org entitled “Great American Smokeout Highlights Need for Tobacco Funding” alerts proponents to decreased funding in the future, however.
Although it’s marked by feel good events like rallies, parades, free “cold-turkey” sandwiches and ritualistic burials of cigarette packs, chances are this year might be a tough one for those looking to finally put down the pack.
That’s because money meant for tobacco prevention is dramatically disappearing. A new report released yesterday by a coalition of health organizations found that states are woefully under-financing their tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States cut funding to their lowest level since 1999, when they first started to receive funds from the master settlement agreement, a multi-state lawsuit brought against the tobacco industry.
Oral cancer can be devastating. If you don’t regularly see a dentist, the condition could get wildly out of control before you even notice it. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of oral cancer, so even without as much funding, perhaps these beneficial organizations can continue to provide people with resources to help them quit.