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Quit the habit today during the Great American Smokeout

Smoke Free St. Joe has two sets of pig lungs. The left is healthy, the right is not. // WSBT 22 PHOTO

Today is a day encouraging smokers to put down the cigarettes.

The Great American Smoke Out happens every third Thursday in November. The goal is to remind smokers that they don’t have to try to quit alone.

Support from family, friends, and health professionals is important from the get-go. A lot of resources are available here to help you cut the habit.

St. Joseph Health System and Smoke Free St. Joe has two sets of pig lungs to demonstrate how smoke can affect human lungs.

One is a healthy set with evidence of blood circulation and elasticity.

The other is an extremely unhealthy pair, coated with tar making it tough to breathe.

Which would you rather have in your body?

Effects from smoke are easy to see on those lungs, but it's widely known that smoke affects the body even more than that.

“Tobacco use affects from head to toe," says Latorya Greene, the Tobacco Education Coordinator at Smoke Free St. Joe.

Tobacco smoke is notorious for causing or worsening a host of health issues including lung cancer.

That’s why the Great American Smokeout today is all about encouraging smokers to take those first steps to quit.

“It's a day for smokers to be able to reassess their health," says Greene. “The hope is that once you succeed at that first 24 hours, that encourages you to continue with another 24 after that.”

Siyuan Zhang is a professor Harper Cancer Research Institute. HCRI is a partner with Smoke Free St. Joe.

He and his students are researching tumor growth and drug resistance. They're working to create a new drug to target a specific type of mutation that leads to tumor growth in lung cancer tissue.

A focus of their research -- the two reasons cancer develops: genes & environment.

“When we are born with a certain set of genes, some people are more susceptible to the environmental stress," says Zhang.

A big environmental stress is smoking. It can speed up deterioration of any bad genes you may have, and that deterioration could lead to cancer.

Greene says emotional stress also plays a big part.

“Stress is the number one reason why people are smoking or even go back to smoking," says Greene. "A lot of times it's due to that stress so it's a matter of managing that stress.”

St. Joseph Health System offers free cessation classes. You can learn more here.

There’s also an Indiana Tobacco Quitline over the phone (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and on the web.

Phone apps from American Lung Association, the Quitters Circle and Cessation Nation can track progress.

A lot of support within those resources for people who may not know where to start.

"Making that commitment – it's all that we need. That is the first step," says Greene.

The Harper Cancer Research Institute is hosting a “Realities of Lung Cancer” Seminar tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Professor Zhang will discuss the research they are doing in the lab, why they need to conduct the research, why they need to figure out how tumors operate. He will also touch on current treatment, and why those treatments are becoming effective.

A lung cancer survivor will also speak.

The event — part of Harper’s ongoing Community Seminar Series — will take place in the 1st Source Auditorium, Raclin-Carmichael Hall, 1234 N. Notre Dame Ave., South Bend.

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