Thursday is National Rural Health Day and the Great American Smokeout

About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes

FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 file photo shows an ashtray with cigarette butts outside the Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City. Researchers found that smokers who switched to special low-nicotine ones wound up smoking less and were more likely to try to quit, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)- Thursday was both National Rural Health Day and the Great American Smokeout, a day where smokers quit smoking for one day, in the hope of quitting permanently.

About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.

“My mother died of pancreatic cancer and she smoked her whole life,” said Kara Dame of Greenfield.

At Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Imaging Services, doctors can look at cat scans and x-rays of patients with lung cancer. The majority of these patients had a history of smoking.

“It starts with the lungs and people who smoke can have respiratory difficulties,” said Naomi Bolognani, Oncology Nurse Manager at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. “They can have asthma, not to mention a number of cancers are linked to smoking.”

Bolognani told 22News a combination of medication along with a support group is your best bet for quitting successfully. Franklin County has one of the state’s highest rates of smoking when pregnant, and premature death.

“There’s not enough health care availability in rural areas,” said Rachel Stoler, Community Health Program Manager for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. “There are fewer doctors are able and wiling to work in rural areas.”

Stoler said a lack of rural public transportation also contributes to the region’s poorer health. She also pointed out that most of the state and federal funding goes to towns with bigger populations.