ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Great American Smokeout is today, and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is calling on Georgians who use tobacco or tobacco products to take the first step to quit smoking or make a plan to quit smoking.
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in Georgia, yet many Georgians still use tobacco, tobacco products or electronic nicotine devices.
"Smoking related illnesses is still one of the leading, most preventable causes of death in our country, so it's still a huge issue that we need to take seriously and today marks that," said Erin Freeman American Cancer Society.
Phone lines are open every minute of every day to help give people the answers they need about cancer. Each year, volunteers provide free information and support to the nearly one million people at 1-800-227-2345.
"Every year in Georgia, more than 12,000 people die from smoking related illnesses," said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. "People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and early death. The health benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, but there are benefits at any age. You are never too old to quit."
Tobacco use leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death. In a young person, smoking can damage the heart and lungs right away and in some cases, the damage never goes away. Annually, tobacco-related illness costs more than $5 billion dollars in direct healthcare costs and indirect costs, such as lost wages.
Recognizing the dangers of tobacco use, many Georgians have made the decision to stop using tobacco or tobacco products. Georgia's adult smoking rate dropped to 17.4 percent in 2014 from 18.8 percent in 2013. Even more significant, the smoking rate has dropped to 16.4 percent among young adults ages 18 to 24.
But more than 50,000 middle and high school students in Georgia say they use e-cigarettes and twice as many say they have tried them.
"Electronic nicotine products go by many names, including "vapes," "vape pens," "e-hookah," "e-cigarettes," and are not safe for youth to use. Teens are trying these products in increasing numbers, despite the fact that they can lead to nicotine addiction, exposure to toxic chemicals, and stroke," said Jean O'Connor, J.D., Dr.P.H., chronic disease prevention director for the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Emissions from electronic nicotine delivery products may include formaldehyde, propylene glycol, acetaldehyde, acrolein, lead, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines in addition to nicotine.
The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line offers free confidential counseling on how to quit smoking or any nicotine product or delivery system. The Quit Line provides smoking prevention and cessation programs to Georgians (age 13 and older) that can increase the chances of quitting and staying quit. Certified smoking cessation coaches are available 24 hours a day to talk about a plan to quit or how to help a family member or friend quit. These services provide support by:
• Preparing participants for their quit date
• Helping develop an individualized Quitting Plan
• Providing tips and support to live in a smoke-free environment
• Offering advice and information on medications that may help with withdrawal symptoms
Georgians can call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (7867) or 1-877-2NO-FUME (877-266-3863). It's free and available 24/7.
DPH is a proud partner of the "Nobody Quits Like Georgia" campaign led by the American Lung Association in Georgia. The campaign unites public and private organizations throughout the state to support, equip and inspire Georgians to quit smoking.