MARIETTA - Smoking cessation is possible.
Just ask those who first put down their cigarettes, pipes or smokeless tobacco for one day-as part of the annual Great American Smokeout event-and then never picked up the habit again.
This year's Great American Smokeout will be held today and local organizations are helping to encourage area smokers to kick the habit.
Selby General Hospital and two local Wendy's restaurants have joined forces to celebrate the event in Belpre and Marietta.
"Since the Great American Smokeout is a nationally recognized event, it's a good opportunity to promote programming and focus on positive health choices like quitting or reducing smoking," said Stephanie Davis, Washington County Tobacco Prevention Project program manager.
"Small steps are the best way to make it to a big change in your life," she said. "(With this event), you can take a day and not use tobacco and see what it's like."
* Approximately 45 million U.S. adults (20.8 percent of the population) smoke, and about 23 percent of U.S. high school students smoke.
* Life expectancy for long-term smokers is approximately 14 years shorter than for nonsmokers.
* Smoking is linked to 30 percent of all cancer deaths and upwards of 87 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. today.
* Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer of the cheek and gums by nearly 50 percent for users.
Within 20 minutes of smoking that last cigarette, the body's heart rate and blood pressure drop to normal, as do the temperature of hands and feet, according to online information from the University of Illinois Springfield's health services.
Those visiting the Marietta Wendy's at 105 Pike St. or the Belpre Wendy's at 1010 Washington Blvd. from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on today can turn in their cigarettes or smokeless tobacco (snuff, spit or dip), and receive a coupon for a free combo meal (a $6 value).
"Wendy's is providing the incentive portion" of the event, Davis said.
Those turning in their cigarettes or smokeless tobacco (snuff, spit or dip) receive a coupon for a free combo meal (a $6 value).
"They're aware of the (smoking cessation) situation, and they want to help," she added.
Davis credited Ray Blackburn, owner of the two local Wendy's restaurants, with having a personal health-oriented outlook that he extends into area communities.
"It's nice to see somebody who is involved with giving back to the community," she added.
On Great American Smokeout day, five to seven students from Belpre Elementary School's Right Choice Club will be at the Belpre Wendy's with signs encouraging participants to stop using tobacco products.
"It's important to educate (children) on the effects of tobacco use and what it can do to your body," said Jeff Simoniette, Belpre Wendy's general manager, who has three sons ages 16 and under.
For Scott Miller, Belpre Elementary School's elementary guidance counselor, the Great American Smokeout event is a chance for the students involved to take a leadership role.
"Sometimes it takes asking someone to stop doing something," he said. "Not just sitting, but doing the asking."
And there's another reason for getting elementary school children involved, Davis noted.
"In this area, we see children as young as third grade that try tobacco," she added. "That's typical when they're exposed to making that choice. Kids are curious."
By participating in the Great American Smokeout event, "You can get an early impact on children," said Davis.
Simoniette had a message for local smokers interested in quitting for a day.
"If you want to make an attempt at this, come in and turn your cigarettes in and eat on the house," he said. "We wish you good luck in getting out of the tobacco habit."
For more information on quitting resources, call the Washington County Tobacco Prevention Project, 374-2229, or the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line, (800) QUIT-NOW.