Given the grim statistics about smoking and the risk of lung cancer and other serious pulmonary diseases, as well as smoking’s role in cardiovascular disease and other illnesses, quitting is one of the most important things a smoker can do for his health. But, as most smokers know all too well, breaking the addiction is hard.

That’s why so many smoking cessation programs and tools have been created. From over-the-counter nicotine patches to prescription drugs to support groups, a variety of approaches can lead to success. The American Cancer Society (ACS) wants Thursday, Nov. 15, to be the day that smokers commit to quit by participating in the Great American Smokeout.

“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., yet more than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes,” states the ACS. “However, more than half of these smokers have attempted to quit for at least one day in the past year."

Despite all the available smoking cessation aids, one thing is the key ingredient to a successful bid to quit smoking, according to area experts. “The bottom line is that not one single thing will help until you’re ready to quit smoking,” says Ellen Brennan, a lung health nurse navigator with SSM Cancer Care. And she doesn’t just mean when people say they’re ready—she means when they’re truly ready on an intellectual and emotional level.

Karen Lane, St. Luke’s Hospital pulmonary rehabilitation coordinator, agrees. “In general, most smokers quit six to nine times before staying smoke-free,” she says. “If smokers try to quit because they know they should or at someone else's prompting, they have less than a 10 percent chance of staying smoke-free. Once they decide they want to quit, they are successful 70 percent of the time.”

The Great American Smokeout is designed to create an opportunity for smokers to set a ‘quit day’ and create a plan to stop smoking on that date. Because many smokers don’t know where to begin with a smoking cessation plan, professionals at area hospitals and health care organizations are available to assist with the process from start to finish.

For instance, Lane says that the St. Luke’s Tobacco Cessation Counseling program offers one-on-one consultation with a respiratory therapist for tobacco cessation. “The curriculum includes information on nicotine replacement (gum and patches), stress-reduction training, cognitive restructuring, social support and relapse prevention counseling, as well as handouts and workbooks,” she says.

Brennan’s list of available services is very similar. Yet she notes that many smokers quit successfully just by sticking with one basic step: Stop. “A lot of patients quit better cold turkey,” she says. “They get it in their mind to do it, and they just do it.”

Additional resources and advice for successful smoking cessation are available by searching for Great American Smokeout at

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