November 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. An estimated 443,000 deaths each year are caused by smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. Half of all long term smokers will die from a smoking related disease. The American Cancer Society initiated the first Great American Smokeout in November, 1977. The Great American Smokeout is now held the third Thursday of every November and this year will be held November 17th. The motto is, “Help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays”. The Great American Smokeout increases community awareness of the dangers of smoking, emphasizes the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air in public places, and encourages smokers to put their own health first by making a commitment to quit smoking for good. Friends, families, and health care professionals can encourage and support all quit attempts and assist smokers to make a long term plan to quit smoking for their own health and for their family’s health.

Forty six million adults in the United States still smoke cigarettes. Forty percent of nonsmokers and fifty four percent of children aged three to eleven years old in the United States are exposed to second hand smoke. Ninety percent of adult smokers started their tobacco addiction as youth. In Maine, about one quarter of all adults and high school students are addicted to tobacco. Everyday in Maine, seven people die from a tobacco related death. Almost one in three children in Maine will have become an addicted smoker by the time he or she reaches eighteen to twenty four years of age.

Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is as addictive as heroin. Quitting smoking is difficult and often takes multiple attempts. But forty million Americans have quit smoking and it is important not to give up! Smoking increases a persons risk for lung, throat, and bladder cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung diseases like COPD and emphysema.

Secondhand smoke is the unfiltered smoke coming off the tip of the cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is also found with pipe and cigar smoking. Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with unhealthy low infant birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, childhood pneumonia, childhood and adult asthma, childhood throat infections, and childhood ear infections. There is NO safe human exposure to secondhand smoke.

Maine’s Tobacco Helpline provides counseling and support to any Maine resident who wants to quit using tobacco. Most public indoor places in Maine are smoke free, including workplaces, stores, movie theaters, libraries, museums, enclosed areas of hospitals, daycare centers, restaurants, elementary and secondary schools, and on school property. It is illegal to smoke in a car in Maine with children under the age of sixteen years old present. It is illegal to smoke within twenty feet of a beach, playground, or any enclosed areas like rest rooms in a state park or in a state historic site. It is illegal to smoke on a public bus, train or taxi.

For more information call the Maine Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-207-1230 or visit www.tobaccofreeme.org, www.tobaccofreekids.org, www.cdc.gov/tobacco, www.cancer.org, and www.smokefree.gov.

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