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      Want to 'Butt Out'? Today's the day to quit smoking

      Thousands of New Yorkers are asked to make a pledge today to 'butt out' as part of the Great American Smoke Out.

      The goal of the event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is to get smokers to quit for at least one day.

      "Smoking is a dangerous and deadly addiction that can be extraordinarily difficult to quit," said State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah. "We encourage all smokers, including those who have tried and failed to quit in the past, to participate in the Great American Smokeout and make a plan to give up tobacco."

      There has been progress in the battle against smoking. Adult and youth smoking rates statewide are at the lowest levels recorded: 15.5 percent for adults and 12.6 percent for high school age teens. These rates are lower than national averages.

      Smoking has been linked to a number of serious health issues, including lung and oral cancer, cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke, and other lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

      Patricia Briest a nurse at the Tobacco Cessation Center at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse says that people who quit smoking can see benefits after one day.

      Briest says that, Even after eight hours of quitting smoking, an individual TMs blood pressure becomes more normal, decreases, and their circulation gets a little bit better, their heart rate gets a little bit slower, more normal.

      When you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself immediately. Don't believe it? Consider this:

      - Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure returns to normal and your heartbeat stabilizes- Within 8 hours, the oxygen level in your blood increases and mucus begins to clear out of your lungs, making breathing easier.- Within 48 hours, your sense of smell and taste improve and your chances of a heart attack decrease.- Within 3 months, your circulation and immune system improves.- Within 9 months, sinus congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath and phlegm production decreases and lung function improves.- 1 year later, your risk of dying from a heart attack is cut in half. You'll also see a possible savings of more than $1,600 (for a pack-a-day smoker at $4.50 per pack).- Within 5 years, stroke risk is reduced to the same level as a non-smoker.- Within 10 years, your chances of getting lung cancer are cut in half.

      If you're a smoker and want to quit, call the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS. Experts will officer advice to help you kick the habit. The Quitline is a free, confidential program offering evidence-based stop smoking services, including free nicotine replacement patches, telephone counseling and support, educational materials, listings and referrals to local quit-smoking programs and strategies to help smokers develop a successful quit plan.

      Are you ready to finally quit? Try these tips:

      - Visit your doctor for support and advice for your quit plan.- Set a quit date and mark it on your calendar.- Get rid of ashtrays, lighters and cigarettes.- Make a list of reasons why you want to quit.- Make a list of family and friends who will support you.- Avoid triggers that make you want to smoke, including alcohol, caffeine and other smokers.- Avoid stores (especially those with large tobacco product displays) where you have purchased cigarettes in the past - this can be a trigger.- Exercise to relieve stress and to improve your mood and health. Try a brisk 30-minute walk at least four days a week.- Consider using a safe nicotine alternative, such as replacement patches, gum or lozenges, which can double your chances of quitting.

      You can find more tips to quit smoking here.

      There's no doubt quitting takes hard work and effort, but the reward will be a longer, more satisfying life. The good news is people are able to quit everyday.

      Everyday that they remain smoke free they get more and more benefits, said Briest.

      Quitting is difficult for many but Briest says that it can be done. Preparation and community support make quitting easier than quitting cold turkey.

      New Yorkers who are having trouble quitting can talk to quitting coaches at the New York State Quitter TMs Hotline by calling 1-866-NY-QUITS. The Quitters Hotline provides free nicotine patches and other services to those who want to quit.