Movement's winners are the quitters

Deputy Lymon Simmons smoked his last Kool 100 cigarette walking a beat on Broad Street. The next day, during the Great American Smokeout, he quit. Twenty years later, it is something he said he still works on.

"I pray every day," said Deputy Simmons, 60, a bailiff for the Richmond County courts. Thursday marked the 32nd Annual Great American Smokeout. The American Cancer Society, which sponsors the event, urges smokers to quit for the day in hopes they can continue.

"Do it for a day," he said. "If you can quit for a day, then you can take the next day as it comes."

Deputy Simmons helped motivate himself to continue by putting aside the $2 he would have spent on cigarettes into a savings jar.

"Seeing my money," he said, laughing, was a reason to keep going. It helps to have a plan going into it.

"You have to prepare," he said. "And I did that in 1988. And I haven't had one since."

Many smokers are afraid to try to quit because they have failed in the past, but many who quit do so after several attempts, said Patrick Reynolds, grandson of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds. who spoke Thursday in Augusta.

Mr. Reynolds helped University Hospital kick off its tobacco-free campus initiative that bars tobacco from the grounds.

University is one of 26 hospitals in Georgia that ban smoking from the grounds, which is 15 percent of Georgia hospitals, said Mr. Reynolds, who divested himself of company stock about 30 years ago. But in noting that 24 states now ban smoking in restaurants and bars, most within the last six years, he feels the momentum is on his side.

"One day we're going to have a tobacco-free society," he told a gathering at University. "It's coming, and it's coming because of you."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

FEELING THE EFFECTS

Nearly 40 percent of current smokers say they have tried to quit at least once, according to the American Cancer Society.

For those who quit, here are the health benefits they can expect after:

12 HOURS Carbon monoxide levels in the blood are normal

2 WEEKS - 3 MONTHS Both lung function and blood circulation improve

1-9 MONTHS The tiny, hair-like cilia in the lungs regain the normal ability to remove mucus, which increases the ability to clean and reduces the risk of infection. Coughing and shortness of breath improve

1 YEAR The increased risk of heart disease from smoking is cut in half.

Source: The American Cancer Society; U.S. Surgeon General Reports; the journal Hypertension.