Does anyone still smoke?

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You would think — with all the awareness campaigns, the mortality rates, the warnings on packagings even! — that people wouldn’t still be smoking.

But they are. Droves of them, actually.

According to Dr. Cynthia J. Goto, spokesperson for the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, smoking may have decreased dramatically over the past decade, but people are still picking up the habit — or sticking to it.

Believe it or not, there are still an estimated 24.8 million men and 21.1 million women in the United States who smoke, according to the American Heart Association.

In Hawaii alone, tobacco use is the state’s No. 1 cause of preventable death and it costs the state $104 million a year in health care costs to treat just female smokers suffering from tobacco-related illnesses. And that’s despite a statewide ban of smoking in all public places, enacted in November 2006.

So why do people still smoke?

Well, most times people start when they’re young — and dumb. Nearly 80 percent of all adult smokers became regular smokers by the age of 18, reported the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, with 90 percent doing so before exiting their teen years.

According to folks who responded to my callout on Facebook and Twitter, some said they smoke when they’re stressed, others when they’re bored and a lot — more than I had expected — when they’re drinking. (Something about a buzz.) I know one person who used to smoke when he drove home late a night just to keep him awake.

I’m curious — do any of you still smoke? And more importantly, why? Isn’t it time to heed the warnings and ditch the cancer sticks?

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This week is National Women’s Health Week, a week-long health observance that empowers women to make their health a top priority and encourages them to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life.

And one of those things is to quit smoking. Here are some tips, courtesy of the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline:

• Throw out the cigarettes: Having them around is a temptation you just don’t need.
• Know your smoking triggers: Your mind is conditioned to want a cigarette in certain places, at specific events, when you’re with particular people, or when you’re feeling a certain emotion. As you’re in the process of quitting, take the time to recondition your mind to deal with these people, places and things without a puff.
• Drink lots of water: Cigarettes contain thousands of toxins. While you’re quitting, take the opportunity to flush some of the poisons out with water,

For more resources or for help, contact the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, (800) QUIT-NOW or (800) 784-8669.