RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Thursday, November 17 is the Great American Smokeout, a day when the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to kick the habit.
8News checked in with Dr. Sarah Gordon at VCU Massey Cancer Center about risks associated with smoking.
Dr. Gordon, an oncologist who specializes in lung cancer, says smoking is a top risk factor for several types of cancer. There are strong links between smoking and lung cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer and esophageal cancer.
Over the past few years, traditional smoking rates have gone down. According to the Centers for Disease control, cigarette smoking rates have hit an all-time low. CDC Researchers say the number of smokers dropped by about 15%, from 45-million to nearly 37-million between 2005 and 2015. The CDC says smoking rates are highest among men, especially African American men.
However, Dr. Gordon says there has been a spike in e-cigarette and smokeless tobacco use.
“They’re not any better for you, and there is still a cancer risk associated with them, as well,” she says. “So we still encourage our patients to quit them if possible, and they’re not a good replacement for smoking actual cigarettes.”
An October report by the American Cancer Society found cigarettes may still contribute to more than one in four cancer fatalities in the United States. Researchers noted the rate is highest among men in southern states where smoking is more common and tobacco laws are less strict.
It is why Dr. Gordon says the Great American Smokeout is a time when smokers can reflect on their habit.
“Use it as a set date to quit or schedule the day when you will quit. Support is available, and research has found people who have support have a better outcome.”
Dr. Gordon says when you stop smoking, benefits are almost immediate: heart rate and blood pressure go down 20 minutes after you stop smoking. Five years after quitting, a former smoker’s excess risk of cardiovascular disease does down. The chance of getting lung cancer is cut in half ten years after kicking the habit.
To learn about available smoking cessation support, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.