Great American Smokeout is Nov. 15The 37th Great American Smokeout is Thursday Nov. 15. This annual event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
By: Tom Wolff, The Republican Eagle
The 37th Great American Smokeout is Thursday Nov. 15. This annual event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
The purpose of the Smokeout is to encourage smokers to quit. Quitting smoking for the day of the Smokeout can be the first step toward a healthier life.
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing about one out of every five deaths. In Minnesota, approximately 625,000 adults still smoke.
Each year, tobacco use is responsible for more than 5,100 deaths and almost $3 billion in preventable health care costs in this state alone.
For decades, Minnesota has had consistent, significant declines in smoking, but now the smoking rate for adults has stalled at approximately 16 percent. The state’s young people continue to smoke at higher rates than the general population, with 6,800 kids becoming daily smokers each year.
Most smokers are reluctant smokers who wish they could quit. In fact, nearly 70 percent of U.S. smokers want to quit for good. The tobacco industry spends more than $150 million per year in Minnesota to market its products in order to retain current smokers and recruit a new generation of “replacement smokers.”
Youth and young adults are prime targets for tobacco marketing. The decision to start smoking is not an adult decision — nearly 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking before they are 18 years old.
It has been almost 50 years since the first surgeon general’s report that linked smoking with lung cancer. Today, everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health. If you ask a smoker if kids should start smoking, the answer likely will be “no.”
The 37th Great American Smokeout makes it clear that helping smokers to quit is only part of the solution.
The true key to success is to prevent youth from starting to smoke in the first place. Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General released the 31st Report of the Surgeon General on tobacco, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.
The report begins by painting a bleak picture:
• Tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic, around the world as well as in the United States.
• Of every three young smokers, only one will quit, and one of those remaining smokers will die from tobacco related causes.
The report ends on a more positive note. The Surgeon General makes it clear that we already know what to do to end the tobacco epidemic. There are proven, evidence-based strategies that will significantly reduce youth tobacco use. The report concludes that well-funded, comprehensive, sustained, multi-component programs can cut youth tobacco use in half in six years.
Successful multi-component programs that prevent young people from starting to use tobacco in the first place more than pay for themselves in lives and health care dollars saved. To be effective, the Surgeon General emphasizes that youth prevention programs should include all of the following components:
• Mass media campaigns
• Higher tobacco prices
• Smoke-free laws and policies
• Evidence-based school programs
• Sustained community-wide efforts
What is Minnesota doing to prevent youth tobacco use? We can take pride in the state’s comprehensive smoke-free law — the Freedom to Breathe Act. In addition, an increasing number of colleges, private employers and local governments have implemented tobacco-free policies for their campuses, parks or playgrounds.
Minnesota currently ranks No. 28 in the nation for tobacco sales tax. Raising the price of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to prevent kids from using it. For the last several years, the Raise it for Health coalition (www.raiseitforhealth.org) has been educating the public and legislators about the health benefits that would result from a tobacco tax increase. It will take strong grassroots support to convince our state legislators to raise the price of tobacco.
Minnesota used to be able to take pride in a well-funded, effective, state-wide youth prevention program that included a robust mass media campaign, Target Market. The funding for this program came from an endowment fund that was part of the legal settlement when Minnesota sued the tobacco industry in 1998.
In 2004, the endowment was eliminated by the governor and the legislature to reduce a state budget deficit. Since that time, the Minnesota Department of Health has only received very limited funding for youth tobacco prevention.
Minnesotans have made some progress but could be doing a lot more to prevent kids from getting hooked on tobacco. The Four Corners Partnership is a local organization that is working to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. Learn more at www.4cornerspartnership.org.
Living a healthier life
Putting down the cigarettes can have lifelong benefits. Take a look at the changes that happen when you quit smoking:
• Within 20 minutes: Your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.
• After 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
• After 12 hours: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
• After two weeks to three months: Your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
• After one to nine months: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
• After one year: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
• After 5 to 15 years: Your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
• After 10 years: Your lung cancer rate is about half that of a smoker’s. Your risk for other types of cancer also decreases.
• After 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services