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Minnesotans Urged To “Butt Out” Today

November 15, 2007

St. Paul, MN – Today marks the 31st "Great American Smokeout," an observance with roots in Minnesota. Matt Flory with the state American Cancer Society says the idea is to encourage smokers to abstain.

"We're asking current smokers to make a pledge today to quit for just one day. One day, as the first step in quitting smoking for a lifetime, something that will really help them improve their health and reduce their risk of getting cancer."

He acknowledges that the first day as a new nonsmoker is the most difficult. The annual Smokeout came out of a call for smoke-free day by a Monticello, Minnesota newspaper owner in 1974. Flory says there's been a lot of progress over the past quarter-century, but lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death. Some 3,100 Minnesotans will be diagnosed this year, and 2,400 will die from it.

"In Minnesota, the smoking rate is at a 60-year low. It's really stayed about the same and stalled the last two years. But it's very hard for people to quit. One in five Minnesotans still smokes."

He says the state's new bar and restaurant smoking ban promotes health and may encourage some smokers to quit. Also, making cigarettes more expensive is a good deterrent for young potential smokers.

Flory says there's no universal "stop smoking" program, but he has some tips for those who are trying.

"Recognize routines that are connected to smoking. Things like, if you light up with a cup of coffee, switch to tea, soda, or juice. You know, do thing little bit differently. Another is, prepare for life as a non-smoker. Remove cigarette-related materials such as ashtrays and lighters, things that might prompt you to smoke in the first place. It's hardest to quit early on."

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, people who quit smoking, at any age, live longer and have less risk of lung, pancreatic, bladder, and cervical cancer.

Jim Wishner/John Robinson, Public News Service - MN