News | Published November 16, 2012 | Written by Aileen S. Galley, ACSW, LSW, administrative director, Cancer Program at Mount Nittany Medical Center, former chair of the Pink Zone Committee

Quit smoking, and honor National Lung Cancer Awareness Month

On average, we take about 20,000 breaths each day. When someone smokes tobacco, they breathe in the more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds that are found in cigarette smoke. Health becomes instantly compromised and over time, greatly increases the chance of developing many types of diseases, including cancers.

Smoking tobacco causes about 90 percent of lung cancers in the United States and is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each cigarette you smoke harms your lungs and ultimately increases your risk of lung cancer; however, your health can start improving immediately after you quit using tobacco products. November 15 is the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. To honor National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, held each November, the Smokeout encourages us to take steps to quit smoking as one way to protect your lungs. Not only will you improve the health of your lungs, but your overall health will improve as well.

Follow these tips to help quit smoking:

  • Know why you want to quit: You have to want to quit, and knowing what is driving you to give up smoking will only help motivate you further. Write down on a piece of paper why it's important for you to quit smoking. For each cigarette you desire, read the reason(s) why you want to quit.
  • Create a goal: Set a personal goal as to how and when you will be smoke free.
  • Don't do it alone: Research shows that you increase the chances for success by getting support. Find someone to quit with, or a friend who will support your efforts. A great resource is the PA Free Quitline at 1.800.QUIT.NOW. The American Cancer Society offers additional support at
  • Avoid triggers: Certain activities may increase your urge to smoke, so it's important to determine what sets off your craving to smoke. Also, surround yourself with friends who do not smoke.
  • Beat your cravings: If something does trigger your desire to smoke, try waiting five minutes. Sometimes that is enough for the craving to pass. If it doesn't, try eating healthy snacks like sunflower seeds, sugar-free gum or a lollipop to help control your craving. Even chewing on a coffee stirrer can help.
  • Seek medical care: Speak to your primary care physician if you need help to quit smoking. They can provide you with further tips, medication and services like support groups to help you successfully quit smoking.

After a person has quit smoking for 10 years, their risk of lung cancer decreases 30 percent to 50 percent.

Mount Nittany Health recognizes the challenge people face in trying to give up tobacco. To help ensure a more clean, safe and healthy environment for patients, visitors and staff, all of Mount Nittany Health locations became tobacco free on September 4, 2012. Tobacco cessation classes have been offered to employees and their families, and patients that are hospitalized are encouraged to talk with their doctor about getting help while they are here.

Tobacco is highly addictive. Quitting is hard. For more tips to become tobacco free and to protect your lungs, visit