It’s the third Thursday of November and while you may be thinking “one week til’ Turkey Day!” today carries greater significance. The American Cancer Society marks the third Thursday of November each year for the Great American Smokeout, encouraging smokers to make the concerted effort to make a plan to quit smoking or quit smoking for the day. Are you a smoker or have a loved one that you would like to quit smoking? Take today to acknowledge the health benefits of quitting.

It’s no great secret that cigarette smoke is hazardous to your health. According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US. Despite this staggering knowledge, roughly 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. That’s nearly 1 in every 5 adults. Non-smokers are quick to say, “just quit, you know it’s bad for you,” but there are mental and physical aspects of addiction that can be daunting to overcome. The following are the most common reasons people have a difficult time quitting:

  1. Stress: For many, cigarettes provide some much needed relief during times of high-stress. Stepping away from a stressful or anxiety-ridden situation to take a few puffs can provide a sanctuary of sorts. Over time, stress and anxiety become a trigger for reaching for your pack and a light.
  2. Social Settings: For many, standing in a group with fellow smokers provides a sense of belonging. The social connections formed either by stepping outside the bar or taking a smoke break with colleagues can reinforce the need to smoke.
  3. Boredom or loneliness: Just as you find yourself mindlessly eating while you are bored, so too do people find themselves lighting up out of boredom.
  4. Alcohol: “I only smoke when I drink” is a common sentiment heard when it comes to nicotine. Alcohol and even caffeine are powerful triggers for smoking.
  5. Appetite Suppressant: The fear of gaining weight from quitting is another common deterrent for quitting, as nicotine can act as an appetite suppressant.

Quitting smoking is both a mental and physical challenge. Mentally, it can be extremely difficult to break the patterns and habits that you associate with smoking. Anxiety and depression, insomnia, irritability, and mental confusion are a few of the mental challenges of quitting. Physically, smokers are addicted to nicotine, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal such as sweating, tingling in the hands and feet, intestinal disorders, headaches, sore throat and coughing. The side effects of quitting may seem insurmountable, but thousands of people quit every day, and you can too. What’s more, anxiety, insomnia and tingling hands are miniscule compared to the overwhelming evidence on the adverse effects of smoking on your health.

The first step to quitting, whether for today or forever is to make the decision (on your own) to quit. The second step is picking a quit day and making a plan. Since today is the Great American Smokeout, why not take today to quit, make the decision to quit, or make a plan to quit. Once you’ve made the decision, dealing with withdrawal and staying tobacco-free are your next – and biggest – hurdles to overcome.  The American Cancer Society suggests the following ideas for staying committed to quitting:

  1. Avoid temptation: Stay away from the people and triggers that tempt you to smoke.
  2. Change your habits: Smoking is habit-forming, chose other things for your mouth, keep your hands active, breathe deeply, and delay your need to reach for a cigarette.
  3. Reward yourself: Quitting is hard work. Period. Give yourself a break and reward yourself for you hard work.

The American Cancer Society provides a wealth of knowledge and information for quitting smoking. The approaches and aides for creating a nicotine-free lifestyle are endless. Do your research and find a method that works for you. If nothing else, take today to take a break. Join in the Great American Smokeout, today. #quitforgood