Smokes out

TODAY is the 10th annual Great American Smokeout - when smokers everywhere are being encouraged to kick the habit, if only for one day. The progress is heartening. The proportion of men who smoke has, by one estimate, fallen from 42 to 33 percent between 1976 and 1985; the proportion for women fell from 32 to 28 percent in the same period. But there's a ways to go.

Among the ex-smokers are many who took their first step to freedom during an earlier Smokeout. The next steps didn't always come right after the first, and many smokers kick the habit only after any number of ``last'' cigarettes. But each experience of living smoke-free - even if but for a single day - should be seen as progress toward the victory, not as some kind of failure just because it didn't last longer.

And some people do quit all at once, finding it not so much a matter of willpower as of asserting a greater normal control in their lives.

On the day of this Smokeout, which helpfully focuses public attention on helping smokers trying to quit (i.e., virtually all smokers), nonsmoking family, friends, and colleagues, as well as the news media, can find practical ways of being supportive. It would be a further help if the tobacco companies would stop promoting smoking as a ``great American right.''

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