SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 15, 2013) - Come join us in celebrating the American Cancer Society 37th observance of the Great American Smokeout, Thursday. Over the years, this event has dramatically changed American's attitudes about smoking and has sparked community programs and smoke-free laws that are saving lives. Believe it or not, quitting for even one day is an important step towards a healthier life.

Since the mid-60's, cigarette use has declined from 42 percent to around 20 percent. That number reflects one in five U.S. adults, which accounts for over 43 million people, who still smoke cigarettes and about 15 million people who smoke cigars or pipes. This occurs despite widespread knowledge that tobacco is the number one cause of preventable deaths in America. And, if that fact isn't disturbing enough, tobacco use is growing in the 25 to 44 year old population (22.1 percent) compared to those 65 and older (7.9 percent). In 2011, 18 percent of all high school students smoked cigarettes.

Smoking accounts for approximately 33 percent of all cancer deaths and has increased links to many cancers like that of the lung (87 percent), the voice box, the mouth, tongue, lips, nose, sinuses, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, ovary, colon, and leukemia.

Smoking causes other health problems like heart disease, aortic aneurysms or vessel disease, erectile dysfunction, blood clots, bronchitis, emphysema, dental disease, and strokes. It's linked also to fertility problems, osteoporosis, ulcers, and vision and hearing problems. Second hand smoke can be harmful as well. And for those who are thinking - I don't smoke, I chew. We encourage you to stop using smokeless tobacco products for all the same reasons as it too is linked to many cancers and diseases.

We encourage you or your friends or your loved ones who use tobacco products to make a deliberate decision to stop using ALL tobacco products beginning Thursday. We know it is a difficult task. For some, it takes many tries to completely stop. That is ok. There are help lines you can call for more information and support, like 1-800-227-2345.

Say no to tobacco and choose a lifetime of healthy habits starting Nov. 21. As the American Cancer Society says, "everyone loves quitters!" For more information please visit or contact your command surgeon or wellness coordinator. Let's stay healthy together.