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Smoking hurts smokers, non-smokers alike
Health advice
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"I am perplexed as to why little is written in the media about the known deleterious effects of on-screen tobacco use and imagery on youth. The National Cancer Institute has established a causal link between kids watching actors smoke and beginning a lifelong habit of tobacco use. Fifty-five percent of the top box office movies depicting smoking and tobacco products released in 2007-2008 were youth rated, G, PG or PG-13. The public has the right to know the facts about the influence big tobacco has on our young people by way of Hollywood and what can be done to effect change and spare 60,000 lives year after year."
The above is an excerpt from a letter written by Cheryl Stier, RN MSN (co-chair of Health Promotions for the NY State AMA Alliance ). She went on to challenge The Times Union to report on the impact tobacco use in movies has on youth.
I personally found this article very interesting because I've been known to frequently aggravate my husband and others when I go on and on and on about a character smoking in a movie or TV show. It does nothing but show the ignorance of the producer. It adds nothing to the plot. It changes the whole perception of that character. And it makes me angry and diminishes my enjoyment of the story.
My father was victim to tobacco-related lung cancer. Were it not for that unfortunate habit, he would be playing with his great-grandchildren and entertaining all of us with his stories and jokes. He quit — but not soon enough — and would be the first person to join me in advocating that actors negatively influence our youth. All of his three brothers smoked and all died from that disease within five years of each other. What a waste of bright, interesting men.
The facts: Responsible for more than 430,000 deaths each year, tobacco causes approximately 50 deaths per hour. Tobacco use is blamed in 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men, and 80 percent in women making a total of 213,000 people each year. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds with more than 60 known to cause cancer.
Tobacco use increases the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking increases the workload on the heart, contributing to heart disease — the number 1 killer of Americans. It is known to contribute to peripheral artery disease, or blockages in the arteries and stomach ulcers. Smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
Environmental or secondhand smoke can be as harmful to non-smokers as it is to smokers. When non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke it is called involuntary smoking or passive smoking. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb nicotine and other toxic chemicals just like smokers do. The more secondhand smoke you are exposed to, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals in your body.
Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, still are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite a great deal of progress in tobacco control. The only way to protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke indoors is to prevent all smoking in that indoor space or building. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings can’t keep non-smokers from being exposed to secondhand.
Making your home smoke-free may be one of the most important things you do for the health of your family. Any family member can develop health problems related to secondhand smoke. Children are especially sensitive. In the United States, 21 million, or 35 percent of children live in homes where residents smoke in the home on a regular basis. About 50 percent to 75 percent of children in the United States have detectable levels of cotinine, the breakdown product of nicotine, in their blood.
Each year, in the United States alone, secondhand smoke is responsible for:
• An estimated 35,000 deaths from heart disease in non-smokers who live with smokers.
• About 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults.
• Other breathing problems in non-smokers, including coughing, mucus, chest discomfort and reduced lung function.
• 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations.
• Increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million children who have asthma.
• Contributes to more than 750,000 middle ear infections in children.
While other effects of tobacco use aren't as deadly, they negatively impact our quality of life. For example, tobacco use can cause gum disease, premature aging (wrinkles) and discoloration of the teeth, skin and even hair. Male smokers have a 60 percent higher chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction and nicotine depletes vitamin C in your body, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
Smokers have a hard time quitting because of one chemical in tobacco. Nicotine is very addictive. Within seven seconds of using tobacco, nicotine hits the bloodstream and goes directly to the brain, releasing adrenaline and dopamine which create feelings of excitement and pleasure. Although it takes only five to seven days to get nicotine out of a person's system, it's very hard for most people to break the habit of having a cigarette with a cup of coffee, on a break or after a meal.
Scientific evidence shows that there is no "safe" level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's report reached several important conclusions about secondhand smoke:
• Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
• Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes breathing symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
• Secondhand smoke immediately affects the heart and blood circulation in a harmful way. It also causes heart disease and cancer.
Need help to quit: Studies have found that the Georgia Quitline can more than double a person's chances of successfully quitting tobacco. Callers to Quitline are connected with smoking cessation resources in their communities, social support groups, Internet resources, and medication assistance referrals. Since its inception in 2000, the Quitline has provided counseling to more than 380,000 smokers.  The toll free number for the Quitline is 1-877-270-7867.
The American Cancer Society offers other free resources (through Quitline and at
GreatAmericans) that can increase a smoker's chances of quitting successfully, including tips and tools for friends, family, and coworkers of potential quitters to help them be aware and supportive of the struggle to quit smoking. Studies show the importance of social support in quitting smoking, as people are most likely to quit smoking when their friends, family and coworkers decide to quit. Popular online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are also becoming support channels for people who want to quit, and American Cancer Society Smokeout-related downloadable desktop applications are available on these networks to help people quit or join the fight against tobacco.
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