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Echo Press Editorial: Encouragement for new non-smokers

And now the hard part begins.

If you were among the millions of smokers who joined the 38th annual “Great American Smokeout,” on November 21 and stuck with it, it’s now been two weeks since your last cigarette.

That may not seem like a long time, but already you’ve made some progress toward better health and a healthier bank account.

Don’t stop now. Here is some extra encouragement for new non-smokers:

Within 48 hours after quitting smoking, your sense of taste and smell improves, according to the QuitPlan Minnesota, a free professional counseling service available to all Minnesotans. After as soon as two weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

You’re also saving money. Quitting cigarettes for a year will save a pack-a-day smoker more than $2,700. Better yet, it will add 56 days to his or her lifespan.

Progress has been made against tobacco use, but too many Americans continue to put their health at risk. Nearly 16 percent of Minnesotans still smoke.

The American Cancer Society points out that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Minnesota and the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among both men and women. Almost as many Minnesotans die from lung cancer as from the next four leading causes of cancer death combined: breast, prostate, colon and rectum, and pancreas cancer.

Between 2003-2007, an average of 2,930 Minnesotans were diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Roughly 2,340 Minnesotans died of lung cancer each year during the same time period.

“Smoking-related diseases remain the world’s most preventable cause of death,” said Todd Peterson, senior director of community engagement for the American Cancer Society.” Every six seconds, someone in the world dies because of tobacco use…We’ve made significant progress in the fight against tobacco, but we must do more to finish the fight.”

There are resources available to help people break the habit. Tips and tools are available on the American Cancer Society’s website, Follow the Stay Healthy link. The site notes that four factors are key:

• Make a decision to quit. Only you can make that decision. Think about why you want to quit: is it to get healthier, save money, or avoid the problems of other smokers? Find those reasons on your own and use them to boost your will power.

• Set a quit date and make a plan. Circle the date on your calendar and make a commitment to quit that day. If you didn’t choose the Great American Smokeout Day, pick a date that holds special meaning, like a birthday or anniversary, or pick a random date. The main idea is to commit to a particular day, not just a hazy “someday” that never seems to arrive.

• Be prepared to deal with withdrawal. There are both physical and mental challenges to overcome. Smoking is likely linked with a lot of things you do – eating, reading, watching TV. It will take time to un-link all those activities.

• Staying tobacco-free. Unexpected, strong desires to smoke may happen months or even years after you quit. Remember your reasons for quitting and think about all the benefits to your health, finances and family. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as one cigarette or even just one puff.

QuitPlan also has resources to tap into:

• The QuitPlan Helpline offers telephone counseling and free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum to eligible callers. Call 1-888-354-PLAN (7526).

• The website,, offers free lifetime membership, helpful quitting tools and activities and the option to connect online with thousands of others who have chosen to quit tobacco.