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Observe 'World No Tobacco Day' May 31

Cheryl A. Thompson

Monday, May 31, marks the annual observance of World No Tobacco Day, a global event to call attention to the effects of tobacco use on public health and reduce individuals' dependence on tobacco.

As former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop noted in issuing the 1982 Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking, "Cigarette smoking ... is the chief, single, avoidable cause of death in our society and the most important public health issue of our time."

For each pack of cigarettes sold, the federal government reported in 2002, society incurred $7.18 in costs from associated medical care and lost productivity. And while an estimated 23 percent of adult Americans smoke, the good news is that 41 percent of those who smoke daily stopped for at least one day in the past year because they were trying to quit.

It is never too late to quit. Quitting has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. Within the first 24 hours after quitting, the chance of a heart attack decreases; in the first three months, circulation improves and lung function improves; and one year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker's.

A smoker's chances of successfully quitting are improved when assisted by a health care provider. Even a provider who is not an expert on smoking cessation can encourage patients to quit smoking. All it takes is 30 seconds to ask patients whether smoke or use tobacco, strongly suggest that they quit, and refer them to a toll-free telephone "quit line" or online smoking-cessation service.

"With little additional effort, the pharmacy profession could have a profound impact on the tobacco-use rates in the United States," said Karen S. Hudmon, assistant clinical professor at the University of California—San Francisco and a specialist in tobacco use and smoking cessation. "When time is an issue, brief interventions should be provided to all patients who use tobacco. At a minimum, pharmacists should ask patients about tobacco use, advise patients to quit, and refer tobacco users to a toll-free telephone 'quit line.'"

For more information, visit the following online resources:

Rx for Change: Clinician-Assisted Tobacco Cessation
This is a free, comprehensive, turnkey tobacco-cessation training program that can be used to equip clinicians and health professional students with the knowledge and skills necessary to help patients quit smoking.
This Web site, which supports the immediate and long-term needs of smokers, has information on toll-free telephone "quit lines." Visit the site to find toll-free telephone numbers for each state. Some states have quit lines specifically for persons who are hearing impaired or prefer a language other than English.

Pharmacists Against Tobacco
Become a part of the Global Network of Pharmacists Against Tobacco, a group that was established by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Tobacco School
The above Web sites offer patients online smoking-cessation assistance.