Find Your Own Reason to Quit Smoking


Today is the Great American Smokeout! I have to be honest. I did not have this day marked on my calendar because I am not a smoker. However, my wife and my mother used to be a smokers and they were able to quit, and my mother-in-law is a smoker who is currently trying to quit (this is for you Patty).

"The Last Time" by Morgan, flickr creative commons
“The Last Time” by Morgan, flickr creative commons

The Great American Smokeout is a day sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. The purpose of the day is for smokers to use the day to start a plan to quit or plan ahead of time and actually quit on the day. Smoking is the # 1 cause of death in the United States and kills 467,000 people every year. I could go on and on about why smoking is bad for you, and, in fact, that is what most websites and other sources of media do. The Cancer Society’s page for the Great American Smokeout, tells you about all the health benefits of quitting smoking. But I am not going to do that. And you know what? I would not even recommend looking at those facts, if you don’t want to. You can even ignore the number of people that die from smoking every year because we all know that smoking is bad. You do not need to be told again.

We as promoters of public health always want people to look at the data and then make decisions based on what the numbers say. We think that if we tell people how bad cigarettes or soda or french fries are for you, then you will just stop. And the ironic thing is that we know from data that this doesn’t work, but we keep doing it. So I am not here to tell you how bad smoking is for you. What I am here to tell you is that if you want to quit, figure out why you really want to quit, or what your motivation for quitting is. I think for a heck of a lot of people it is not because cigarettes are bad for you, and that is totally fine, but I am guessing that there might be other reasons for quitting. Maybe it is because they are really expensive. Maybe it is because you can’t smoke anywhere anymore, and it is a real pain in the butt to have to sneak around to find a place to smoke. Maybe it is because there are 4 cigarette companies in the Fortune 500 and you don’t want to support huge corporations. Maybe it is because cigarette companies have marketed their products to kids. Maybe you are motivated by social justice and don’t like the fact that tobacco companies disproportionately market and sell in low-income neighborhoods. Or maybe, like my wife and mother, you are motivated to quit because of a bet (my dad and I made those bets).

"Today I Quit Smoking" by Sibel, Flickr Creative Commons
“Today I Quit Smoking” by Sibel, Flickr Creative Commons

My point in all of this is, you don’t need to let the “professionals” tell you why you should quit smoking because they may have no idea what motivates you. If you want to quit smoking, find the thing that is going to make you quit and keep going back to that. It is not important how or why you get there–it is just important that you get there. For my mother-in-law, it is because her husband, my father-in-law, just passed away three months ago from sudden cardiac arrest, and her grandson, who she is raising, is scared to death that the same thing is going to happen to her. We all have our reasons. Good Luck.

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