San Francisco Launches Citywide 'Make Today the Day' Quit Smoking Campaign

Jan 05, 2010, 16:45 ET from Healthy San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- At a time when many smokers consider quitting for the New Year, today is a timely launch of a partnership that joins together mutual public health interests sought by the American Lung Association in California, Healthy San Francisco and the city's Public Health Office in a citywide public awareness campaign aimed to help smokers achieve that goal.

Encompassing 42 poster board and transit sites across San Francisco, the ad campaign is simple and direct -- Make Today the Day -- to decide to quit, and then take the steps necessary to do so.

According to the most recent data available (1999), smoking costs San Francisco $433 million annually in medical and indirect expenses. With that figure certain to be much higher today, the American Lung Association in California and the city of San Francisco believe that quit smoking health promotion is a valuable investment in improving the long-term wellbeing of area citizens and the fiscal health of the city. The statewide costs of smoking are nearly $16 billion annually.

For years, Dr. Mitchell Katz, Public Health Director for the city of San Francisco, has spearheaded a number of tobacco free initiatives. "While prevention and cessation efforts in San Francisco and across the state have reduced the smoking rate, there are still nearly four million people in California who smoke," stated Dr. Katz at a joint news conference held today with the American Lung Association at San Francisco's City Hall.

"We owe it to them and their loved ones to make the resources and support they need accessible so they can quit... for good."

Nationwide, more than 48 million Americans smoke yet of them, 70% admit they want to quit, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Even though a staggering seven out of 10 smokers admit they want to quit, many smokers simply lack an understanding of the tools needed and remedies available to help them succeed," Katz explained.

With smoking related illnesses being the most dominant -- and wholly preventable -- of all health issues, it makes good sense to encourage increased utilization of quit-smoking tools and treatments readily available through health coverage, public clinics and support groups like the American Lung Association. "We hope that this ad campaign will motivate people who smoke to take the first step toward a smoke-free future," stated Katz.

The American Lung Association in California joins the city of San Francisco to kick-off the 'Make Today the Day' campaign to urge people who smoke in San Francisco to quit.

"We urge people who smoke, to make today the day that they commit to quitting," said Dr. James K. Brown, a volunteer for the American Lung Association in California and Professor of Medicine in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UCSF and the VA Medical Center here in San Francisco. "Taking the first step toward quitting will improve the health of people who smoke and reduce their risks of serious disease such as lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD."

San Francisco County Supervisor Eric Mar, District 1, has been on the forefront of initiating public smoking bans within San Francisco city limits.

"Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that a person who smokes can do to improve their health," Mar stated at the news conference.

The campaign to encourage people to quit smoking is an important complement to Supervisor Mar's proposal to expand smoke-free places in San Francisco, legislation that the American Lung Association supports. "Increasing smoke-free environments motivates smokers to smoke less and quit, and it provides further protections from second hand smoke, which is a known carcinogen and causes the death of approximately 6,000 people in California annually," Mar pointed out.

"Approximately 14 percent of adults in San Francisco smoke. Reducing -- or eliminating public smoking all together -- is one of my top priorities in helping to create a healthier San Francisco, but smoke-free public spaces is only part of the equation," admitted Mar. "Providing smokers access to proven treatments and help tools greatly increases the likelihood of quit success."

Dr. Katz is convinced that a smoke-free San Francisco is sound policy for the city -- and also makes good sense for businesses that operate in the city. One study on the costs of smoking shows that in California in 1999, the indirect costs due to lost productivity from smoking-related illnesses were $1.5 billion.

And, medical expenditures for smokers are approximately one-third higher than those for nonsmokers. According to national studies, smokers have higher absenteeism rates, averaging 34% more absences from work than non-smokers. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke also have a higher rate of illness.

Smokers are also 29% more likely to have industrial accidents and 40% more likely to suffer injuries at work. This translates into higher health insurance, life insurance, and workers' compensation claims.

Katz is also concerned with the fact that six to 12 percent of health and welfare fund costs are allocated to treating smoking-related illnesses, and for that reason, is a proponent that businesses adopt smoke-free workplace policies, noting that businesses could benefit -- particularly in today's challenging economic times -- from an estimated 25 to 35 percent lower health and fire insurance premiums.

Still, the fact remains that it's simply not easy to quit. Even though seven out of 10 smokers admit they want to quit, they go on smoking because nicotine is an insidious addiction and many smokers lack access to the tools needed to help them succeed.

The ad campaign urges smokers to contact their doctor to learn more about the wide selection of resources and treatments -- and, directs people to the American Lung Association for help. People who call the number on the ad (800-586-4872) will reach the American Lung Association's Helpline where they will be connected to a registered nurse or respiratory therapist who will be able to answer their questions and provide them with resources and support.

In addition, smokers can find additional resources to help them quit at the American Lung Association's website,, including tools, tips on how to talk to your doctor about quitting smoking and stories from smokers who became ex-smokers.

It's widely accepted that smoking is a leading contributor of coronary heart disease, stroke and a host of other cancers and diseases like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that it harms nearly every organ in the body.

SOURCE Healthy San Francisco