Commissioner Novello Marks 28th Anniversary of Great American Smokeout

ALBANY, November 18, 2004 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D, M.P.H., Dr. P.H., today announced the 28th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout and encouraged all New Yorkers who smoke to quit for the day in the hope that they can stop forever.

To assist those individuals who participate in this national campaign, Dr. Novello urged them to call the New York State Smokers Quitline for assistance and information on ways to stop smoking.

"Quitting smoking is the most important step a person can take to reduce his or her risk of developing illnesses typically associated with tobacco use. The Great American Smokeout can be the start of a healthier future for those smokers who want to quit," said Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D, M.P.H., Dr. P.H. "This day could prove to be the start to a healthier life for those people who participate."

Under the leadership of Governor George Pataki, New York has one of the most comprehensive tobacco control programs in the nation. Anti-smoking initiatives such as enacting The Clean Indoor Air Act, fire safe cigarettes, putting tobacco products behind the counter and out of reach of kids, and tougher penalties for retailers who sell tobacco to teens continue to help New Yorkers to live healthy lifestyles.

Now in its 28th year, the annual American Cancer Society event encourages people who smoke to kick the habit for 24 consecutive hours in the hope they may stop smoking forever. Medical research confirms that it is never too late to quit smoking. Tobacco-related health risks are significantly reduced within a few years of stopping smoking, even if a person has smoked for years.

The health benefits of quitting smoking are significant. A smoker who quits reduces his or her risk of developing smoking-related heart disease, stroke, cancer and emphysema. There are also more immediate rewards. Quitting helps stop the damaging effects of tobacco in a person's appearance including: premature wrinkling of the skin; bad breath; stained teeth; gum disease; bad smelling clothes and hair; and yellow fingernails. One's sense of taste and smell will also improve. Ordinary activities such as exercise will be more productive and beneficial to a person who quits smoking, allowing them to breathe easier and optimize the benefits of physical activity.

Additionally, as part of the Governor's aggressive tobacco control effort, Medicaid covers over-the-counter smoking cessation products, including nicotine patches and gum, and prescription medications sold under the brand name Zyban.

New York's Smokers Quitline has received over 250,000 calls since its inception in January 2000. Trained information specialists are available weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and weekends from 9:00 to 1:00 p.m. to provide counseling and information to smokers who want to quit smoking. Callers can also order a free smoking cessation guide to be mailed directly to their home or listen to a taped message library that provides information about quitting smoking 24 hours a day.

More information about the Great American Smokeout and quitting smoking is available by visiting The American Cancer Society website at http://www.cancer.org and the New York State Department of Health web site http://www.health.ny.gov, or by calling the NYS Smokers Quitline at 1-866-NY QUITS (1-866-697-8487).