Vernon County's annual observation of the Great American Smokeout hopefully leads to more than the suggested 24 hours of abstinence and eventually a total recovery from the debilitating effects of tobacco smoking, sponsors say.
In conjunction with the national initiative, Nevada Regional Medical Center will distribute free "survival kits" of information and encouragement from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, in the main lobby of the hospital, 800 S. Ash St.
Sponsored by the American Cancer Society since the first Smokeout was held in 1976 in California, the event is allied with a year-around program at the local hospital, where Respiratory Therapy Director Tim Wilson teaches free smoking cessation classes.
To enroll, call (417) 448-3622. There is a $30 fee for gum, patches and other supplies.
In addition, NRMC spokeswoman Jennifer Eaton said Tuesday that this year's effort is part of the Cerner Corp.'s "Healthy Nevada" project to enhance local citizens' health and in the process create a model for towns and cities across the country to employ. "If you haven't been able to stop yet, say, 'Hey, I can put them down for one day,' and one day could lead to two and you'll be able to stop forever," said Eaton.
"It's a hard habit to kick, but you start seeing the benefits within hours. After 10 years, the rates of lung cancer are similar to those of people who never smoked. We schedule a daytime smoking cessation class when three or four people sign up. Just call and get on the list."
Estimating that 46 million Americans smoke tobacco, the American Cancer Society calls the Smokeout a "social engineering event" that helps many relinquish the habit.
According to benefits listed on its Web site, the organization says a smoker's pulse rate and blood pressure drop to normal and temperatures in the hands and feet rise to normal within 20 minutes of stopping.
Within eight hours, the blood carbon monoxide level falls to normal and the oxygen level goes up to normal, and within 24 hours the chance of a heart attack drops, the ACS says.
Nerve endings begin regrowing and the senses of smell and taste improve within 48 hours while circulation improves, walking gets easier and lung function increases by up to 30 percent in two weeks to three months.
After one to nine months, former smokers experience less coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath as the lungs enhance their ability to handle mucus and reduce infection.
Risks of coronary heart disease lower to less than half those of a smoker within a year, and the lung cancer death rate for people who had averaged a pack of cigarettes a day diminishes by almost half within five years. The stroke risk falls to that of a lifelong non-smoker in five to 15 years.
After 10 years, pre-cancerous cells are replaced and the hazards of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, cervix and pancreas decline.
The Cancer Society says precursors of the Great American Smokeout included Arthur Mullaney's 1970 suggestion that people in Randolph, Mass., give up cigarettes for a day and donate their savings to a local high school and from newspaper editor Lynn Smith's "Don't Smoke Day" in 1974 in Monticello, Minn.
"On Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly one million smokers to quit for the day," the group said from its headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. "That marked the first Smokeout."