Resolve to Quit

by Mary Vacala, TC, PA-C, MSPAS, DFAAPA, President of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants

At one time, smoking was considered sophisticated and even “cool.” Tobacco companies
used certain types of people in their advertisements to create this perception
and even created personalities, such as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel to help
perpetuate the idea. Times have changed, however, as smoking rates are dropping
and it becomes increasingly more difficult for smokers to find a place where
they are welcome to light up.

Many work places have banned smoking on their properties – including in employees’ vehicles –
while major cities around the country have enacted, or are working towards legislation to
become smoke free in public venues such as bars and restaurants. Some are even considering
making it illegal to smoke in outdoor public places, such as beaches and parks. According
to the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, there is no safe
level of secondhand smoke to which a person can be exposed. Studies have found even low
levels of secondhand smoke can damage a non-smoker’s health. Cities and employers that
ban smoking are taking an important step to improve the health of all citizens.

For years, we’ve heard about the dangers of smoking, which include increased
risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer, to name just a few. But, we often
fail to highlight the many benefits of quitting smoking. Below are just a few
long-term benefits:1

  • One year: your excess risk of suffering coronary heart disease has decreased to half the risk of a continuing smoker.
  • Five years: your risk of having a stroke has decreased compared to continuing smokers, and will continue to decrease over time.
  • 10 years: a decade after you quit smoking, your risk of lung cancer is now half that of people who keep smoking. You’ve also experienced a decrease in your risk of ulcers and other cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder.
  • 15 years: your risk of coronary heart disease is now comparable to that of people who never smoked a single cigarette. Your risk of dying also is nearly back to the same level as that of non-smokers.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for one out of every five deaths in the U.S. each year –
that equals 443,000 deaths annually − and is estimated to cause nearly 50,000 additional
deaths due to secondhand smoke exposure each year. Overall, more deaths are caused each
year by tobacco use, than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor
vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.2

Additionally, there is a significant economic toll. Between the years 2000 to 2004,
smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related
economic losses in the U.S., including direct medical costs and lost productivity.3

All of this may seem irrelevant to the smoker, because it is not easy to quit.
Nicotine in cigarettes is a powerful and highly addictive drug. Many smokers would
like to quit smoking, and a vast majority of individuals who have quit successfully
have made at least one unsuccessful previous attempt to quit.

Here are a few tips for you or someone you know who may want to quit smoking:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using proven cessation treatments, such as FDA-approved medications and/or individual, group or phone counseling, can double your chance of success.
  • Avoid Triggers: Nicotine is a very addictive drug, and usually people make several tries before they successfully quit. Each time you try to quit, you can learn what works for you and what situations are problematic. Most smokers like to smoke at certain times. Make a list of the times when you always reach for a cigarette. Pick one of those times. Then, do something else instead of smoking such as taking a walk.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Your employer may offer cessation resources or health benefits. Additionally, utilize available resources such, which provides many support groups and tools in order to help you reach your goal of becoming smoke free.

If you smoke, make the effort to try to quit for yourself, your health and those you care
about. Reaching this goal will have a positive impact on your life, and the lives of
those around you.


  1. Quit Smoking Support Website. Accessed on 3.1.11.
  2. CDC: Smoking and Tobacco Use/Tobacco-Related Mortality. Accessed on 2.11.11.
  3. CDC Smoking & Tobacco Use/Economic Facts About U.S. Tobacco Production & Use. Accessed on 2.11.11.