TriCounty Health is inviting residents to join in the Great American Smokeout this Thursday, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The challenge is for smokers to take the first step and pledge to quit smoking for at least 24 hours as a step toward quitting for good. Over 34 million people or 14 percent of the population in the United States smoke cigarettes. Tragically, 480,000 people also die every year related to tobacco use making smoking the number 1 preventable cause of death in the U.S. Unfortunately, the TriCounty Health District is the second highest in the state for adults who smoke, reaching 17.5 percent. While there is no denying it is difficult to quit, TriCounty Health is urging residents to consider the benefits of quitting. For example, by quitting you are not polluting the air with smoke that is dangerous for your family and friends to breathe while around you. Quitting also improves your blood pressure and lowers the heart rate within 20 minutes and oxygen levels increase within 12 hours. For those interested in help quitting, visit or turn to the many resources available at TriCounty Health.