Mercy in encouraging the community to commit or recommit to healthy, smoke-free lives by participating in the American Cancer Society’s 43rd Great American Smokeout event Thursday, Nov. 15.

“The most important thing smokers can do to improve their health is to quit smoking cigarettes and other forms of combustible tobacco,” said Gary DuMontier, MD, Mercy Clinic Internal Medicine. “We are showing our support for people who take those first steps toward making a plan to quit.”

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for 29 percent of all cancer deaths.

In fact, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined.

Smoking not only causes cancer. It damages nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes, and bones.

Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is one of the strongest and most deadly addictions one can have. While cigarette smoking rates have dropped (from 42 percent in 1965 to 15.5 percent in 2016), about 37.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes.

Each year, approximately 20 million American smokers try to quit, representing more than half of the 37.8 million smokers in the U.S. Only about 1.4 million (7 percent) succeed. An even greater percentage of smokers (68 percent) report being interested in quitting.

Quitting is hard. It takes commitment and starts with a plan, often takes more than one quit attempt, and requires a lot of support. Getting help through counseling and/or prescription medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully.

Support also is important. Smoking cessation programs, telephone quit lines, the American Cancer Society’s Freshstart program, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and smoking counselors or coaches can be a great help.

Mercy is partnering with the American Cancer Society, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide support as people make their plan to quit.

More information is available at cancer.org/smokeout or by calling 1-800-227-2345.

“Mercy wants to help the people in our community to be healthy and happy,” said DuMontier. “During this year’s Great American Smokeout® event, we hope everyone will join us — and encourage their friends, family and colleagues to join us — in committing or recommitting to year-round, smoke-free lives.”