Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Worldwide, it causes more than 7 million deaths every year. Despite knowing the impact it can have on your body, quitting is hard, especially during a pandemic.

Sandy Foster, the director of CCMH’s TSET Healthy Living Program, said for the first time in 20 years, the number of packs of cigarettes sold increased.

“For me, that’s an indicator that either more people are picking up the habit, or people are smoking more,” Foster said. “I will tell you, I think it’s the latter, people are smoking more, but then you are also getting people that are picking it up because they are stressed. They hear that it will relieve your stress.”

She said that isn’t the case.

“They’re smoking because they’re addicted, and nicotine is like any other drug,” Foster said. “It attacks your brain and says, I need it, I need it, I need it, I need it. So, you’re stressed because you need that hit from whatever drug-addicted to. In the case of cigarettes, it’s the nicotine.”

If you try to quit and can’t, don’t get discouraged. On average, it can take people between 1 to 7 times trying before they’re able to quit smoking, that’s according to Foster.

“It’s highly addictive,” she said. “It’s more addictive than cocaine, heroin, all of those things. I’ve talked to some drug addicts that have told me that it was easier for them to quit using methenamine than it was for them to give up cigarettes. It’s highly addictive, so the best thing you can do is never start.”

But, if someone did start, it’s not too late to quit, even if they started in their teens.

“My mom is one of those people,” she said. “And she started at that young age. And I know forever when I started working in tobacco prevention, about 20 years ago, she’d go, ‘I love what you do, but I can’t do anything about it.’”

She said year after year they talked about it.

“And at the age of 60, she put it down, and she did not smoke after that,” Foster said.

But, the damage had already been done, and her heart was damaged from smoking.

“But, if she can do it, this woman who told me it was never going to happen, ‘I enjoy it so much.’ She would stop in the middle of a meal and have a cigarette,” she said. “So, if someone is that highly addicted, you can do it. You have to find your reason, and you have to make a plan.”

The Great American Smokeout happens on the 3rd Thursday of November, and because of it, CCMH T-SET healthy living program is providing free quit kits to help people stop smoking. If you’re interested in getting one, give them a call at is 580-699-9877.