FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Moncrief Army Community Hospital will celebrate "The Great American Smokeout" Nov. 15 at the Post Exchange from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the hospital lobby from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants are encouraged to quit smoking for 24 hours.

The benefits are many, and the possibilities are endless. Twenty minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twelve hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. After two weeks to three months, the circulation improves and your lung function increases.

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease one to nine months after you stop smoking. Cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infections. Cilia are tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs.

Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of smokers after quitting for one year. Your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancer is cut in half after five years, and cervical cancer risk falls to that of non-smokers. The risk of stroke falls to that of nonsmokers after two to five years.

Ten years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. And the risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases. Coronary heart disease risks become that of non-smokers 15 years after stopping.

These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good.

Quitting lowers the risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps the heart and lungs. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

Kicking the tobacco habit offers some immediate benefits and some you will develop over time. Stained teeth get whiter. The smoky smell on your breath and in your clothes and hair go away. Discoloration on your fingers and fingernails disappear, and your sense of taste and sense of smell improve.

Everyday activities, such as climbing stairs or light housework, no longer leave you breathless. The prospect of better health is a major reason for quitting, but there are other reasons, too.

Smoking is expensive. It isn't hard to figure out how much you spend on smoking. Multiply how much money you spend on tobacco every day by 365 days a year. The amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of years you have been using tobacco, and that amount will probably shock you.

Multiply the cost per year by 10 for the next 10 years and ask yourself what you would rather do with that much money.

This doesn't include other possible costs, such as higher costs for health and life insurance and likely health care costs due to tobacco-related problems. Furthermore, if you continue smoking for 40 years, at $5 per pack and one pack per day with compound interest of 5 percent, had you invested the money costs can exceed $270,000.

For more information about quitting smoking come to the smokeout or visit