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American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout is Nov. 15, to help people stop smoking.

Jefferson County Public Health encourages smokers to make a plan to quit smoking during the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15.

The event focuses on encouraging Americans to quit tobacco smoking. People are challenged to stop smoking for at least 24 hours assuming that their decision not to smoke will last longer, hopefully forever.

"The most important thing smokers can do to improve their health is to quit smoking cigarettes and other forms of combustible tobacco," said Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker. "We are showing our support for people who take those first steps toward making a plan to quit."

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for 29 percent of all cancer deaths. In fact, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.

Smoking not only causes cancer. It damages nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes, and bones.

Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is one of the strongest and deadliest addictions one can have. While cigarette smoking rates have dropped (from 42 percent in 1965 to 15.5 percent in 2016), about 37.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes.

Each year, approximately 20 million American smokers try to quit, representing more than half of the 37.8 million smokers in the U.S. Only about 1.4 million (7 percent) succeed. An even greater percentage of smokers (68 percent) report being interested in quitting.

Quitting is hard. It takes commitment and starts with a plan, often takes more than one quit attempt, and requires a lot of support.

Getting help through counseling or prescription medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully.

Support is also important. Smoking cessation programs, telephone quit lines, the American Cancer Society's "Freshstart" program, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and smoking counselors or coaches can be a great help.

The American Cancer Society, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide support as people make their plan to quit. More information is available at cancer.org/smokeout or by calling 1-800-227-2345. You can also call the Quit Line for support at 1-800-784-8669.

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