The takeaway is simple: If you take care of your lungs, your lungs will take care of you.

Healthy Lung Month (October)—a month set aside for lung health awareness—is recognized by the American Lung Association (ALA) and several health advocacy organizations across the U.S. It is designed to help educate the public about the importance of protecting their lungs against general neglect, bronchitis, mold, air pollution, and smoking.

The Smoking Cessation Trust is adding its support to these groups by encouraging Louisiana smokers (currently 23.1 percent according to the United Health Foundation's 2018 America's Health Rankings Report) to take this opportunity to "love your lungs" by quitting cigarettes and encouraging friends and family members to quit, as well. The takeaway is simple: If you take care of your lungs, your lungs will take care of you.

Lung disease affects an astounding number of Americans. More than 35 million Americans live with a chronic lung disease like asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis—and smoking does not help. Additionally, children and teens who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home are affected by the same health problems that affect adults. Secondhand smoke may even cause problems for children later in life including, poor lung development, lung cancer, heart disease and cataracts.

"We know it's hard to quit cigarettes—sometimes taking anywhere from 8 – 11 quit attempts before a smoker quits for good," said Mike Rogers, CEO of the Smoking Cessation Trust Management Services. "That’s why we're taking this opportunity, and other observances like the upcoming Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 21, to remind people of the damaging effects of smoking and to encourage them to protect their lungs from nicotine and other carcinogens and general pollutants. We want everyone, especially our fellow Louisianans, to try their best to lead healthier lives."

Here are some tips from the American Lung Association to help keep your lungs healthy:

Don't Smoke

Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation, or swelling in the lung, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and may trigger changes that grow into cancer. If you smoke, it's never too late to benefit from quitting. The American Lung Association can help whenever you are ready.

Avoid Exposure to Indoor Pollutants That Can Damage Your Lungs

Secondhand smoke, chemicals in the home and workplace, and radon all can cause or worsen lung disease. Make your home and car smoke-free. Test your home for radon. Avoid exercising outdoors on bad air days. And talk to your healthcare provider if you are worried that something in your home, school or work may be making you sick.

Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Air Pollution

The air quality outside can vary from day to day and sometimes is unhealthy to breathe. Knowing how outdoor air pollution affects your health and useful strategies to minimize prolonged exposure can help keep you and your family well. Climate change and natural disasters can also directly impact lung health.

Prevent Infection

A cold or other respiratory infection can sometimes become very serious. There are several things you can do to protect yourself:

--Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based cleaners are a good substitute if you cannot wash.

--Avoids crowds during the cold and flu season.

--Good oral hygiene can protect you from the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Brush your teeth at least twice daily and see your dentist at least every six months.

--Get vaccinated every year against influenza. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.

--If you get sick, keep it to yourself! Protect the people around you, including your loved ones, by keeping your distance. Stay home from work or school until you're feeling better.

Get Regular Healthcare

Regular check-ups help prevent diseases, even when you are feeling well. This is especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it is serious. During a check-up, your healthcare provider will listen to your breathing and listen to your concerns. If you need health insurance, learn more about your options.

Exercise

Whether you are young or old, slender or large, able-bodied or living with a chronic illness or disability, being physically active can help keep your lungs healthy. Learn more about how exercise can strengthen your lungs.

"With Big Tobacco spending millions of dollars trying to convince older smokers that 'switching' is somehow a healthier option than quitting; and raising the age of purchasing tobacco products to 21 falling short in the Louisiana legislature, we are facing new smoking cessation battles on several fronts," added Rogers. "Regardless, we are committed to helping Louisiana smokers quit with the Trust's free help and hope that many will decide that October's 'Healthy Lung Month' will be an ideal time to begin their journey to quitting."

To date, the Trust has registered more than 104,000 eligible Louisiana citizens who are on the path to quitting their nicotine addiction and loving their lungs.

"With three years left to this free cessation program, we also strongly encourage our members, and all smokers across Louisiana, to just quit—don't switch to e-cigarettes and vaping as an easy way out. Just quit the nicotine addiction today. Your lungs and your overall health will thank you," concluded Rogers.

For more information, for tips to apply for the free products and services provided by the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust, or to find a cessation provider, visit: www.smokefreela.org, call 504-529-5665 or toll-free at 855-259-6346.

Contributed by Smoking Cessation Trust