Like most 4-year-olds, Kendra Jones wants to be just like her mommy when she grows up. That includes smoking cigarettes.
Even though Christina Jones tells her daughter it’s a nasty, disgusting habit, the Chandler mother of three knows she sends a stronger message by continuing to smoke.
"She mimics me," Jones said. "Anything that’s long and skinny can be a cigarette."
All that changes today, when Jones joins the national Great American Smokeout and tries to kick her 18-year habit. She’s been attending a smoking cessation class through the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and already has cut down to about five cigarettes a day that she steals from her husband.
Jones said she’s motivated by her kids, her family history of heart disease and the obvious hazards to her health and appearance. She’s inspired by statistics showing the immediate health benefits of quitting, and she expects to feel more motivated to exercise once she stops smoking.
"There are vanity issues. I would like to look nice for a long time," she said. "It’s going to take its toll on your health, on the outside and the inside."
Smoking accounts for one in five deaths, including 30 percent of all deaths from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, which sponsors the annual event.
Nearly 14,000 cancer deaths a year are related to secondhand smoke. Living or working with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s risk of death from heart disease by 30 percent.
Those statistics are aiding a drive to put a statewide smoking ban on the ballot and leading more companies to forbid smoking in the workplace.
The 60-acre Mercy Gilbert Medical Center will be nonsmoking when it opens in June.
"We are a health care facility, and we need to model healthy behaviors," said president and chief executive officer Laurie Eberst. "The environment is going to be one of a healing nature, and that doesn’t include cigarette smoking."
Eberst said she was warned the smoking ban would make it harder to hire nurses and other staff. In fact, she said, it’s helped.
Public health officials are hosting events throughout the Valley and the state today and this weekend to encourage people to quit smoking, including activities at college campuses, Friday’s Phoenix Coyotes game and Sunday’s Phoenix Suns game.
Jones said the hardest part of quitting will be living with a smoker. Her husband has tried to quit before, and she hopes her quitting will encourage him to try again, she said.
Great American Smokeout events
When: Today, all day
Where: Arizona State University; Scottsdale, Chandler-Gilbert and Paradise Valley community colleges
More information: Tips on quitting smoking, smoking cessation classes and counseling are available through the state’s Tobacco Education and Prevention Program, at (800) 556-6222 or www.ashline.org