DOVER — Sunday is World No Tobacco Day, a day when people are encouraged to not use tobacco products.
The day is also designed to draw more attention to the negative impacts of smoking and other forms of tobacco use.
This year also marks the 51st anniversary of the publication of the federal government’s “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service.”
The report was the first government publication linking tobacco use to various diseases and cancers.
Even though it’s been a half century since the report’s publication, 42.1 million Americans are still smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that 1,300 Americans die every day due to illnesses and complications caused by tobacco consumption.
“About 90 percent of lung cancer deaths are related to smoking, as are a third of heart disease deaths, and the risks of developing many other disease and illnesses are much higher for smokers than non-smokers,” said Fred Gatto, chief of the Health Promotion Bureau at the Department of Public Health.
“Nearly 480,000 smoking-related deaths happen in America every year, which equates to about one in every five deaths.”
The World Health Organization claims that 6 million people die every year in the world from tobacco-related causes. It warns that if measures aren’t taken to reduce tobacco use, that number could climb to 8 million by 2030.
Billions spent advertising
Despite the death toll tobacco takes, tobacco companies aren’t cutting back efforts to sell their products. According to the WHO “Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2013,” tobacco companies spend almost $10 billion in advertising annually for products that will contribute to the death to at least half of the consumers.
Advertising spending is estimated to average about $1 million per hour.
At the same time, Delaware imposes a tax of $1.60 per pack on cigarettes.
In a world where women are more financially independent than ever before, the 2013 report said that women and young people are being targeted in advertising because they are the emerging markets for tobacco products.
And hooking new consumers, especially young people, is increasingly important to tobacco companies as older generations of consumers die.
“Our focus is always on young people because the best way to quit is never to start,” Mr. Gatto said. “But what’s also important for people to know is that if they are a smoker, it’s never too late to stop.”
A common misconception is that after years or even decades of smoking, the damage has been done. But, in reality, positive health benefits will result after quitting, regardless of how long you’ve been a smoker.
“The chances of developing nearly every disease caused by smoking drops dramatically after quitting, so it’s always worthwhile to quit no matter how long you’ve been doing it,” Mr. Gatto said.
According to the CDC, health benefits of quitting include a lowered risk for lung cancer, reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, reduced risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a reduced risk for infertility in women of child-bearing age.
The WHO claims that more than 600,000 people die every year from secondhand smoke.
“Tobacco products add chemicals and carcinogens to the air which can cause damage to the heart and respiratory system, so when someone is smoking it’s really affecting everyone’s health around them too,” Mr. Gatto said.
Officials say Delaware has done it’s part to protect individuals from secondhand smoke, most notably through the 2002 Indoor Clean Indoor Air Act signed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. The bill made Delaware only the second state in the nation to outlaw smoking in nearly all indoor facilities open for public use.
“After improving their own health, most people finally decided to quit to protect family members, especially young ones like grandkids, from secondhand smoke,” said Terry Towne, the lead facilitator for Bayhealth’s tobacco cessation program.
Help available to quit
Bayhealth’s Freedom from Smoking is a seven-week course developed by the American Lung Association. The program has been practiced on a national level for 30 years and the Lung Association has seen successful results.
The first few weeks begin with setting goals and making plans for behavior modification and the fourth week of the program is “quit week,” when all participants try to end their tobacco use for good.
“We have a pack track so whenever they get the urge to smoke, they can write down why they want to and how badly they want to,” Ms. Towne said. “One of the most important things is to determine what the triggers are. For some people it may be a social activity or stress related but for others, it might be driven by the nicotine addiction.”
Ms. Towne added that some individuals are able to make it through the program cold turkey while others need assistance from other products like nicotine gum, patches or other physician-prescribed aids.
“We want to discourage people from using e-cigarettes as a way to quit, because it isn’t better than smoking,” she said. “E-cigarettes contain nicotine which is what gets people addicted to cigarettes in the first place.”
The program focuses on good nutrition and physical activity, stress reduction but most importantly, a positive outlook.
“Just like any other self-improvement activity like exercise or eating healthy, it’s always helpful to have a buddy to do it with, especially if they’re in the same household,” Ms. Towne said.
Bayhealth even follows up with participants and gives information during the sessions about relapse because Ms. Towne said that around the three-month mark is when people are most likely to relapse.
Mr. Gatto said some incentives to prevent relapse are to clean the house, get coats dry-cleaned and the car detailed to get rid of the smoke smell.
“Once it’s gone, you’re going to realize you don’t want all your possessions smelling like smoke again,” he said. “Also make your home a smoke-free environment. If you have friends who smoke, which most smokers do, tell them you’re trying to quit so they know smoking in your home or car isn’t okay and they don’t pressure you into joining them.”
Bayhealth’s program is made possible through the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Community Contract. Funding for the contract is provided by the Delaware Health Fund and managed by the American Lung Association of Delaware.
If you need help quitting, you can sign up for a Bayhealth course at bayhealth.org and looking under “classes and events” or by calling the DPH Smoking Quitline at (866) 409-1858.