By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The third Thursday in November has traditionally been the Great American Smokeout. We hear less about it than we used to. That is related to the fact that there are fewer smokers than there once were.

At one point over 50 percent of the population smoked. The number peaked in 1973. Since that time, it has consistently dropped. Today only West Virginia exceeds more than 25 percent of its population smoking.

Delaware sits at 16.5 percent of the population being smokers. That puts us in 29th place with first place going to Utah where only nine percent of the population are smokers.

Part of the reason for the decrease in the prominence of the Great American Smokeout is the fact that the numbers are lower.

However, a bigger part of it is related to the fact that we have come to approach smoking more as a nicotine addiction than a dirty habit.

Just like any addiction, shaming someone is not going to stop the addiction. It requires support. That support can come in many forms. However, no matter how it comes, it needs to be effective for the individual.

There are three stages of smoking. There is the confirmed smoker who has no desire to quit. Those individuals are not yet ready to try to stop.

There is the smoker who desires to quit. Those are the individuals who need our help and assistance. They are the ones for whom things like the Great American Smokeout can be beneficial. It can provide a date for them to focus upon as the date to quit.

Then there is the group of individuals who are ex-smokers. Like the people who go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, they are never free of their nicotine addiction. It is an ongoing battle.

Many smokers often cycle between being a smoker who wants to quit and one who is an ex-smoker. These again are the individuals who need our support. They are the ones who should be encouraged to call the Delaware Quitline at 866-409-1858. 

The services offered include motivational support from a Quitline specialist. They include follow up support. They include general information about quitting. They can even include stop smoking aids like nicotine patches and gum.

Of interest is that we have to help smokers stop. However, the route that has the most success is just going cold turkey without any of those aids. That being said, success is different for each individual.

Perhaps you know someone who could use your support in overcoming their nicotine addiction this year on the third Thursday in November.

COVID update- Nationally, the number of new cases had remained between 511,000 and 520,000 for three consecutive weeks. This week the number rose to 580,000. 

Last year we hit 100,000 for the first time on Oct. 31 and stayed between 100,000 and 135,000 until Nov. 10. We had only one day below 135,000 between Nov. 11 and Jan. 31. It would appear that the timing for this winter’s surge is going to be similar.

There are now many individuals vaccinated or who have had a natural infection. For that reason the surge should not be as high as last winter. In addition, the vaccination of school children should also help keep the peak down this year.

In Sussex County total numbers for the week dropped from 389 to 369. That is lower. However, it is not as big a drop as we had seen for the previous four weeks. So the numbers have not yet risen locally. We are not in a hot spot. It is likely that they will rise to some degree over the next few weeks.