It’s no longer breaking news that smoking cigarettes and nicotine is bad for your health. Yet, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Oregon. It causes more deaths than car and firearms accidents, alcohol, and illicit drug use combined. Nearly 8,000 Oregonians die from tobacco and nicotine addiction every year.
Here in Douglas County nearly one in four adults and about 10 percent of 11th graders smoke cigarettes. This statistic does not include the use of e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes, sold under brand names like JUUL, have gained popularity in recent years, especially among teens. Although e-cigarettes are often advertised to help people quit smoking, the FDA has not confirmed that claim. Plus, e-cigarettes still contain addictive nicotine and harmful chemicals. The truth is, whether electronic or traditional, cigarettes pose a serious health risk.
Studies conclusively link smoking cigarettes to causing cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nicotine in both traditional and e-cigarettes is even more harmful to teenagers because it inhibits brain development, which continues until the age of 25. A new 2019 medical study has also found that the flavorings in e-cigarettes may be bad for your heart.
Many of the health problems linked to smoking can steal away a person’s quality of life long before death. Smoking-related illness can make it harder for a person to breathe, get around, work, or play. Plus, smoking can cause pre-mature aging, yellowing of the skin and the whites of eyes, and tooth decay.
It’s never too late to kick the habit
Quitting smoking can be daunting. However, the benefits of quitting smoking begin just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, when your heart rate returns to normal. After one year, your risk of heart attack is half of a smoker’s and after 10 years it’s the same as a non-smoker’s. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, COPD, and stroke. It also stops the progression of respiratory symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Tips to quit
Quitting is possible! The good news is there are today more former smokers than smokers. Free resources and medications available to help you along the way. Quitting does not have to be a solitary battle. Expert help is available online, or just a phone call away. Medications can also double your chances of successfully quitting, especially when combined with other strategies like counseling and online help programs. The most common medications are FDA-approved nicotine replacement treatments such as “the patch” that supply small, controlled amounts of nicotine without the chemicals that come with smoking.
E-cigarettes: Same drug, new flavor
E-cigarettes have put a modern spin on cigarettes. Often referred to as “juuling” and “vaping,” they use water vapor and over 7,700 flavors to deliver nicotine. Although e-cigarettes do not have the same health risks that come with cigarettes, they contain addictive nicotine, heavy metals, and many harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes are rapidly growing in popularity among teenagers in part because they are easier to smoke and to conceal. Talk to your kids today about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
If you or a family member is looking to quit smoking and tobacco use, the Oregon Quit Line can provide free expert advice and resources. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visit www.quitnow.net/oregon.