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Thursday Is The 36th Annual Great American Smokeout

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 16 Nov 2011 07:28pm | comments
Jean McKinney

Every year Mississippi spends 750-million dollars a year to treat smoking related illnesses.  MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that today is the 36th annual Great American Smokeout....a day set aside to encourage smokers to quit using tobacco.

For 22 years 68-year old Jean McKinney worked an office in Minnesota, surrounded by the second hand smoke of her co-workers.

"And they were smoking in the offices. In the resident council meetings. Pretty much everywhere you went," McKinney said.

Exposure to all that smoke led to a laundry list of lung problems that require her to use oxygen and severely limit's her ability to get around.

"To me it is like being in a room with a thousand skunks all getting rid of their skunk scent at the same time. If you really get to the point where you can't breathe in or out, it might change your mind," McKinney said.

About 22-percent of Mississippi adults smoke.

Leann Smith was taking a cigarette break in downtown Jackson...she says she smoked for 15 years, then quit for 10 years before starting smoking again to relieve stress.

"Because even if you quit, the urge never goes away. Never. You could smoke one a mile long, you always have that craving," Smith said.

Smith says she is not worried about potential negative health effects from her habit, but according to the Department of Health, medical treatment for smoking related illnesses costs the state 750-million dollars a year.

Roy Hart, the director of the office tobacco control, says smoking rates have declined but leveled off in Mississippi despite the state spending 20-million dollars a year on anti-smoking efforts.

"But the tobacco industry spends nearly 10-times that in marketing its product in the state to ensure that they keep a tight grip on the smokers that they have and make great attempt to recruit younger smokers to start using tobacco and start smoking," Hart said.

Hart says the state should raise the cigarette tax and institute a statewide indoor smoking ban to encourage more people to quit smoking.


Jean McKinney



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