GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - If you look around South Mississippi, you'll see several people desperately trying to kick the habit. November 18 is the one day each year when the American Cancer Society hosts the Great American Smokeout. According to a cancer society news release, this day "is designed to motivate and empower smokers with personalized tools, tips and support to help them quit for good."
Every step Tommy Vice takes once he get out of his car is a step toward a healthier life. He's been smoking for decades.
"People that have smoked that long don't think they can quit. But if I can quit, anybody can quit," he said on Good Morning Mississippi.
Vise's decision to go through Memorial Hospital's tobacco cessation program came only after he watched both his parents struggle with cancer. Once in the program, he got guidance, and a prescription "which is developed for smoking, to stop smoking," Vise said. "It's the most wonderful thing since sliced bread."
Vise was talking with WLOX News in Memorial's Medical Oncology clinic. Next to him was a jar stained black by tobacco. Dr. Pamela Tuli uses the object to open the eyes of people enrolled in the cessation program.
"What it represents is the amount of tar you would put into your lung if you smoked a half a pack a day for a year," she said.
Dr. Tuli works in Memorial's Medical Oncology department. Her job is to chart how smokers do as they desperately try to give up their vice.
"The numbers range from anywhere to 10-14 years you'll add to your life if you quit smoking early enough," said Dr. Tuli.
On days like this, when the American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout, props and statistics are often used to emphasize why smoking can be lethal. Earline Quave is with the American Cancer Society.
"You're not getting tobacco. You're getting more chemicals and poisonous, hazardous toxin chemicals in a cigarette than you're actually getting tobacco," she pointed out.
The tobacco cessation program offered by Memorial shows people how they can quit, how they can better manage stress, how they can relax, and how they can avoid lighting up again. The weekly class also stresses a critical point.
"Nearly one in five deaths in the United States is tobacco related. So that number is really staggering. And I think it's important for patients to know that," said Dr. Tuli.
Tommy Vice found that out when his mother died from lung cancer. That's when he smoked his last cigarette, about 13 months ago.
"If I can quit, anybody can quit. I can guarantee that," he said.
To learn about Memorial's tobacco cessation class, call (228) 867-4022.
Several Mississippi cities including Gulfport have no-smoking ordinances on their books. But the state does not. However, 35 other states around the country ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars.