The Truckload Carriers Assn. is encouraging all smokers affiliated with trucking  —from dispatchers and drivers, to safety directors and executives — to reduce or completely quit smoking for one day on Sept. 20 as part of National Truck Driver Appreciation & Wellness Week.

The goals of the “Ditch the Pack!” effort are to raise awareness of the benefits of quitting smoking and to show support for those starting or continuing their smoke-free journey.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 Americans smoke. Even worse for the trucking industry, a PubMed Research study on occupational exposures and lung cancer found that 67% of all long-haul truck drivers smoke. The good news is that the benefits of quitting can be felt almost immediately.

The CDC states that after 20 minutes without a puff, an individual’s heart rate returns to normal. After 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in blood decrease. Between two weeks and three months, the risk of having a heart attack decreases and lung function begins to improve. The benefits continue to grow as more time passes, and by 15 years, a former smoker’s risks in many categories return to about the same levels as people who have never smoked.

Dave Nemo, an American radio personality who currently hosts “The Dave Nemo Show” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, is a former smoker who quit the habit many years ago. He said, “There are many things that can motivate you to ditch the pack. Keep searching for that one thing that’ll make the difference. We all know we should quit smoking, but finding the key to make us want to quit will lead to success. Quit a thousand times if you have to. One day it will stick. Sure it’s a tough battle, but truckers are tough people.”

Nemo will participate in a “Celebrity Walk” to draw attention to better health habits for truck drivers on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Antioch, TN, TA/Petro truck stop location.

“It is each individual’s choice, but we are speaking up because we care,” said Robert Low, TCA’s chairman and the president and founder of Prime, Inc., Springfield, MO. “Most people want to make the healthy choice for themselves; they just need the right information and a way to do it that works. That’s where we come in. We have the tools and the resources needed to follow through.”

“Ditch the Pack” day is just one of many health-oriented activities being planned for National Truck Driver Appreciation & Wellness Week, Sept. 16-22, 2012. A complete listing of all NTDAWW promotions can be found on www.DriverAppreciation.com.

Drivers can easily locate and search for events within a specified location. Event listings include basic contact and location information, type of activity (free meal, discount offer, prizes/gifts, etc.), a description of which drivers may attend (all CDL holders, only CDL holders affiliated with the host company, etc.), and more.

Anyone interested in helping to spread the word about Ditch the Pack day is encouraged to use the program’s official logo. To download a copy, visit www.truckload.org/Ditch-the-Pack-Logo.