Friday, January 16, 2009

The Silent Killer

by Jean Henry Mead

Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, suicide and illegal drugs combined. But that doesn't stop nearly a quarter of our population from indulging in the habit.

The surgeon general declared cigarettes a health hazard in 1964, yet some 46 million people in the U.S. still smoke, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s 22.8% of all adults or nearly one in every four people. Men account for a quarter of the smokers while women account for a fifth.

I understand how difficult it is to quit smoking. Someone told me when I was 14 that smoking would stunt my growth. I was already 5 feet 10 inches tall, the same height as both my parents. After 27 years of smoking, I had grown an inch and acquired chronic bronchitis and all sorts of respiratory and other health problems. It took several years for me to quit and only after my parents died of cancer. Both were smokers.

I’m now in the process of campaigning for a smoke free public environment to protect children and adults like me who suffer from second hand smoke. My husband and I like to bowl but the bowling alleys are full of smokers, some of whom bring small children with them. Several non-smoking measures have been voted down here in Wyoming, which makes me think that the majority of smokers go to the polls to vote down the ban.

I know that statistics are boring but I found the following information interesting. Smokers categorized by ethnic groups include:

American Indians and Alaskan natives 32.7%
Whites 24.0%
African Americans 22.3%
Hispanics 16.7%
Asian Americans 12.4%

High school students accounted for 22.9% of smokers in 2002, and hopefully that number has decreased. Nearly 27% of smokers are in the 18-24 age bracket.

Some 440,000 people die each year in this country as a result of tobacco use. That’s one out of every five deaths. It’s no longer the “in” thing to do so why do so many people smoke? Most smokers admit that it’s a nasty habit and that they’re addicted to nicotine, but there are a number of ways to kick the habit.

A blue ribbon federal panel in 1964 reported that cigarette smoking led to peptic ulcers, lung cancer, accidental death due to house fires, and to a reduction in birth weight of babies born to smoking mothers. This column isn’t long enough to list all the other ailments caused by tobacco use.

So, if you’re attempting to kick the nicotine habit, please get help. See a doctor, join a support group, take up a sport that won’t allow you to smoke because of decreased lung capacity. Do it not only for yourself, but your loved ones.

And please start today!


Chester Campbell said...

I started smoking when I was in the Army in 1944. After I went to work at a newspaper, it was the "in" thing. I don't remember any reporters who didn't smoke. Along the way I picked up a hacking cough. Somewhere in the late sixties I decided I'd had enough and quit. I was tempted to go back a few times, but after awhile cigarette smoke became obnoxious. Now I'm allergic to it. My feeling is if you have the will power, you can quit. I had a brother-in-law who had smoked all his life until the Surgeon General came out with that warning. He threw away his cigarettes and never smoked another one.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good for both of you! My family all quit smoking when some of us started dying from cancer. It's a shame that it sometimes takes family deaths to wake everyone up.