Quitting smoking is certainly a challenge. For many, it's part of a cultural norm, particularly here in East Texas where we have the highest smoking rate in the state.

We all know the harmful effects of smoking and costs associated with them, as noted by numerous studies and health organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. Getting over the addiction is no easy feat.

It takes some powerful messages and consistent efforts to make a dent in the statistics and improve health outcomes. Smoking ordinances, workplace incentives and school-based smoke-free campaigns are ways some communities have fought to curb tobacco use.

Locally, PECAT (People Educating Communities About Tobacco) and Peers Against Tobacco at The University of Texas at Tyler are working to spark a change.

For example, the UT Tyler Faculty Senate has developed a resolution that combines their support with previous campus resolutions by the Student Government Association and the University Staff and Advisory Council to call for a tobacco-free campus.

But there is work to do.

"UT Tyler remains as the only large employer within Smith County lacking a tobacco-free campus policy, which still prevents interested faculty to apply and receive grants and research opportunities, since UT Tyler is not a tobacco-free campus," PECAT co-chairman Terrence Ates said.

On Thursday, groups such as PECAT will be promoting the American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke Out. The annual event has been an opportunity for smokers to quit for a day, with the hopes they'll take another step to kick the habit for good.

It's also a time for community organizations and businesses to celebrate being tobacco-free workplaces.

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