SAN ANTONIO – Join the U.S. Army in recognizing the American Cancer Society’s 37th observance of the Great American Smokeout today. Over the years, this event has dramatically changed America’s attitude about smoking and has sparked community programs and smoke-free laws that are saving lives. Believe it or not, quitting for even one day is an important step toward a healthier life.

Since the mid-60’s, cigarette use has declined from 42 percent to around 20 percent. That number reflects one in five U.S. adults, which accounts for more than 43 million people who still smoke cigarettes and about 15 million people who smoke cigars or pipes. This occurs despite widespread knowledge that tobacco is the number one cause of preventable deaths in America. And, if that fact isn’t disturbing enough, tobacco use is growing in the 25-to-44 year old population (22.1 percent) compared to those 65 and older (7.9 percent). In 2011, 18 percent of all high school students smoked cigarettes.

Smoking accounts for approximately 33 percent of all cancer deaths and has increased links to many cancers like that of the lung (87 percent), the voice box, the mouth, tongue, lips, nose, sinuses, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, ovary, colon and leukemia.

Smoking causes other health problems like heart disease, aortic aneurysms or vessel disease, erectile dysfunction, blood clots, bronchitis, emphysema, dental disease and strokes. It’s also linked to fertility problems, osteoporosis, ulcers, and vision and hearing problems. Second-hand smoke can be harmful as well. And for those who are thinking  – I don’t smoke, I chew. We encourage you to stop using smokeless tobacco products for all the same reasons as it too is linked to many cancers and diseases.

The health care community encourages you, your friends and your loved ones who use tobacco products to make a deliberate decision to kick the habit beginning Nov. 21. We know it is a difficult task. For some, it takes many tries to completely stop. That is ok. There are help lines you can call for more information and support, like 1-800-227-2345.

Say no to tobacco and choose a lifetime of healthy habits starting today. As the American Cancer Society says, “everyone loves quitters!”

For more information, visit www.uncanquit2.org or contact your command surgeon or wellness coordinator. Let’s stay healthy together.