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New year, new law good reasons to quit smoking now

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Among the more common New Year's resolutions is to take steps to improve one's health, including a vow to quit smoking.

Illinoisans will have an extra reason to make such a pledge: the comprehensive state smoking ban that takes effect Jan. 1.

Rather than trying to find ways to deal with being unable to smoke in places where they once did, smokers should devote that energy to finding ways to kick the habit.

Smokers in Bloomington-Normal got a head start with the Twin Cities banning smoking in all bars and restaurants a year before the state did.

One good thing about enacting such a ban in January is the winter weather makes going outside to smoke an unappealing option. Smoking can make a person feel even colder because it hinders circulation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that just over 20 percent of U.S. adults are smokers - and 70 percent of them would like to quit.

There is a good reason for that. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC. Research has shown that even longtime smokers will see benefits from quitting smoking. In other words, as long as you're still breathing, it's never "too late" to quit.

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Some people can quit "cold turkey" on their own. The CDC reports that those who use short-term counseling or products such as nicotine patches often have greater success.

Bree Davis of the McLean County Public Health Department said people may qualify for free nicotine replacement therapy. Regardless of where you live, call the state's Tobacco Quit Line, (866) QUIT-YES.

Other local resources include the "freedom from smoking" programs offered through OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, and BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Normal.

Many employers also offer assistance with smoking cessation plans. Check with the human relations or personnel office where you work.

Online resources with tips for quitting smoking include www.smokefree.gov operated by the Centers for Disease Control, National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health; the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org; and the American Lung Association, www.lungusa.org.

We can also be good resources for each other by offering encouragement and support to those who are trying to quit smoking.

Make this one of your resolutions: Quit smoking or help someone who wants to quit.

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