No one likes to be called a quitter… well with one exception that is… and that’s when quitting smoking. Get ready for the 2015 Great American Smokeout on November 19th. This could be your year! You can be a quitter too! Okay, just so you don’t think I’m just preachin’ like a “never smoked a day in her life public health nurse,” I have smoked, and I was lucky enough to kick the habit 12 years ago. According the American Cancer Society, I’ve now cut my risk of lung cancer in half compared to someone still smoking, and I’m on my way to having a heart disease risk comparable to someone who has never smoked. So, for being a quitter, I’m really glad to be called one.

Now for the public health nurse stuff… In 1982, I remember it well, the U.S. Surgeon General at that time, C. Everett Koop (he was a great person, by the way), announced that cigarette smoking was the major single cause of cancer mortality in the country. Today, we know that smoking is the most preventable cause of death nationally and is thought to be the cause of every one in five deaths. This year there will be over 224,000 new lung cancer diagnoses among both men and women equally, and almost 160,000 individuals will die of lung cancer.

Smoking and other forms of tobacco don’t just cause lung cancer though, they are also implicated in many other forms of cancer like oral cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach, pancreas, kidney uterine, cervical, colon, and ovarian cancers. It is also implicated in acute myeloid leukemia, chronic emphysema, and chronic, obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In my nursing career, I’ve seen people die of COPD – not a pretty picture to struggle for every breath and then still feel like you’re suffocating. Not a way I want to go.

There are an estimated 42 million people in the country who smoke, and smoking cost our economy $92 billion dollars every year that could be used on education, transportation, or other infrastructure. Tobacco-related health costs are about $133 billion a year. So if you smoke or you don’t smoke, and you’re complaining about the cost of your health insurance, make the connection. If smoke or you don’t smoke, you really need to know the effects of second-hand smoke which has been shown to have significant negative affects for the health of all housemates including pets.

So, basically, there are hundreds of reasons to be a quitter! Smoking related illness is preventable! Enjoy the benefits of quitting, and quit like a champion. If you need help, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 800-784-8669. Or check out the apps available for your iphone or android at: For more information about second hand smoke go to:

Debbie Anne is a public-health nurse with the Frederick County Health Department. She has been awarded a Governor’s Citation for her work with Marylanders living with HIV.