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November Is a Great Time to Quit Smoking

By Joe Hickman

November is a great time to try again to kick the smoking habit.

I say "again" because, as a 30-year-smoker who tried to quit for 25 of those years, I'm pretty sure all smokers try to quit again and again.

During November, carrying on the work of journalist Peter Jennings, ABC News is presenting a series of reports on quitting smoking and lung cancer prevention.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and November 17th is the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. It's a perfect time for the 51 million Americans who still smoke cigarettes to make a serious effort at quitting so they won't be part of the 160,000 who die from smoking each year in the U.S.

There is help, especially during November.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Quitline Consortium is providing resources to help people quit smoking. There's a national network of quitlines, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which automatically connects callers to their state-based quitlines for additional resources on quitting and lung cancer.

ABCNews is devoting a portion of its Web site to "Quit to Live: Fighting Lung Cancer." The section includes links to smoking cessation resources; and a "Quitters Blog" documenting peoples' attempts to quit smoking.

The Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout helps smokers quit cigarettes for at least one day, in hopes they will quit forever.

A big mistake

Smoking cigarettes was the biggest mistake of my life.

To quit, I tried everything from shock therapy to hypnosis. My wife left me in a motel in my underwear for days so I couldn't buy cigarettes. I finally was able to quit during a 10-day hospital stay with a collapsed lung. Something about having a steel rod shoved into my chest with no anaesthetic to reinflate the lung made me really want to quit.

But the damage was done. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and worst of all, allowing my wife's and daughter's lungs to be polluted year after year by my second-hand smoke.

The primary cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoke. Today, lung cancer deaths are falling in states with strong tobacco control laws.

Chemicals and nicotine

The Cancer Society says cigarette smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known to cause cancer. The tobacco burns while a cigarette is smoked, exposing the smoker and others to these deadly chemicals, tars and gases.

Nicotine does not cause cancer, but it does keep many people addicted to smoking. Each puff of a cigarette delivers a concentrated dose of nicotine straight to the brain -- and reinforces the need for the next puff.

Even after you've given up nicotine, you may still want to smoke. To maximize your chances of staying smoke-free for good, you need a plan.

The Cancer Society ( can help you come up with a plan, taking you step by step through making the decision, preparations, and following through.

Moving from one step to the next requires careful thought and preparation. And, no, it won't be easy. But this time, this month, it might just work.

Watch the news. Think about it. Call the quitline. Work on your plan.

It's a great time to try again.

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