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Great American Smokeout urges smokers to kick habit
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Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In an effort to provide people with resources to help them quit, the Great American Smokeout is Thursday.

McMinnville resident Atlanta Northcutt has been one of the 1.5 million Tennesseans who smoke. But she plans to change her cigarette-infused lifestyle today.

Northcutt is using a combination of her birthday on Wednesday and the Great American Smokeout on Thursday as motivation to end her seven-year smoking habit. She admits she’s not sure what to expect and says the challenge is a little overwhelming.

“The reason I’m trying to quit is due to the ever-present risk of cancer, lung disease, and breathing complications such as COPD,” said Northcutt, 27. “I also don’t want to age myself prematurely.”

Lung problems and cigarette smoking are inseparable companions. The Centers for Disease Control says smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths each year.

About 40 million Americans, including 1.5 million Tennesseans, smoke cigarettes, according to the American Cancer Society. Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation for both smoking and premature deaths.

The annual Great American Smokeout draws awareness to the health benefits of quitting tobacco and the tools available to help smokers quit. In Tennessee, the need is urgent, with the state’s smoking rate at 22 percent, considerably higher than the national average of 17 percent.

The Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner realizes that kicking the habit can be agonizingly difficulty. That’s why so many people continue to smoke despite the health dangers.

“Tobacco and nicotine are a very hard habit to break, but they don’t make you happy in the long run,” said Dreyzehner. “They make you poorer, sicker and unhappy. The Smokeout is the perfect day to take a step toward triumph over nicotine addiction and a happier, healthier life.”

The Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, offers free assistance, resources and counseling to help smokers transition to a smoke-free life. The hotline is available seven days a week.

QuitLine hours are Monday thru Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central, Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For online resources, visit