Former smoker encourages others to quit

Smokers have been called to a challenge Thursday -- the American Cancer Society is encouraging smokers to put down the tobacco for at least one day. The ACS reports 43.8 million Americans still smoke. That's nearly one in every five adults.

At one point that statistic included Travis Woodall, who told News 5 he started smoking as a teenager. "Your throat hurts, your lungs hurt, you know. There's a lot of fluid in your lungs. I had all that," said Woodall.

But he says quitting took him years. "As time went by, it actually got harder and you relapse a little bit," Woodall said.

Now tobacco-free, we learned smoking cast a darker shadow on Woodall's father, a smoker battling throat cancer. "Basically, they cut him from ear to ear, and they took the cancer out along with his vocal cords, his Adam's apple, and part of his tongue. Now he can't speak anymore. I mean, it was terrible. He suffered," Woodall said.

Despite a growing awareness, cigarettes are still part of our culture in many cases. Doctors told News 5 Thursday our region nearly tops the charts when it comes to lighting up. "This is rated as the number two in the country for smoking, and I've had several patients who are just about 40 years old that are already diagnosed with lung cancer," said Dr. Girendra Hoskere, a pulmonologist with Wellmont Medical Associates.

Dr. Hoskere said he's seen cigarettes ruin his patient's lungs, but smoke isn't the only culprit when it comes to health risks. "All forms of tobacco are pre-cancerous," Dr. Hoskere added.

He said the best thing to do is stop now, not later. "The sooner you quit, the greater chances for recovery," said Hoskere.

Woodall knows first-hand that quitting can be tough, but he said it's a small price to pay for your life. "Think about the people around you. The people that love you, that want you to be there for us long as you can," added Woodall.

If you want to make the decision to quit, there are a number of resources to help you. Many can be found by going to the American Cancer Society's website.

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