With the coming New Year and Wisconsin’s state smoking ban set to go into effect in July, many workplaces and public gathering spots are already preparing for big changes. Could there be a better time for smokers to consider making what could be the most important health resolution of their lives and the lives of their families?
What makes this New Year any different from others? For smokers and those affected by secondhand smoke, it’s a chance to make a New Year’s resolution with possible life-altering ramifications, life-changing implications and life-saving consequences. We all make resolutions to lose weight, work out more, stop procrastinating, get along with our in-laws and so on.
But this New Year we have a chance to drive home the point personally that “Everybody Smokes When Anybody Smokes.”
Over the past several months the Wisconsin secondhand smoke awareness campaign has drawn attention statewide to the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, particularly to children, the elderly, those with pre-existing health issues and many ethnic minority and low income groups. With the coming of a smoke-free Wisconsin in 2010, the time for reflection, motivation and action to quit has never been more opportune. The prevention of secondhand exposure smoke to families and loved ones could not be more timely or appropriate. This is the year and now is the time to commit to a New Year’s resolution we can stick to – if not for ourselves, then for our loved ones and our communities.
The “Everybody Smokes When Anybody Smokes” awareness campaign illuminated fully the considerable cultural impact on the smoking habits of Wisconsin’s ethnic and low income populations. The causes of tobacco usage among minority and low income groups are both unique and profound. Yet individual choice and both peer and community pressure still play critical roles in the health awareness and, ultimately, the cessation aspects of the quitting process.
Teresa Barber, program director for the Wisconsin Native American Tobacco Prevention Network, describes her personal goal as helping people to “stop smoking and stop exposing loved ones to secondhand smoke.” She goes on. “Real and relevant (from a cultural perspective) is to continue to educate the leaders of the eleven Wisconsin Tribes and their communities, help develop culturally appropriate materials and activities to raise awareness on the dangers of secondhand smoke through press releases and letters to the editors using the results of the Wisconsin Native American Youth Tobacco Survey and continue to use the WNATN’s informational brochures. We must also continue to educate our people about traditional tobacco use versus commercial tobacco abuse.”
While cultural uniqueness may present some challenging complications, an individual choice adopting a healthier lifestyle can still be made. What better way to show you care than by stopping something that could save lives and take lives by not stopping? If not compelled to do it for yourself, then do it for those you love and care about. With 2010 looming, now would be an excellent time to consider making that annual New Year’s resolution, especially as it relates to what most health care professionals consider as the single greatest contributor to illness and poor health – cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.
Several statewide agencies have been working feverishly to counteract the devastating effects of secondhand smoke exposure particularly as it impacts ethnic minorities and low-income populations. These groups tend to succumb more easily to the persuasive advertising and marketing tactics utilized by Big Tobacco companies which target them through the proliferation of smoking messages and images in local communities. They tend to be less knowledgeable about and less inclined to react to the information confirming the ill effects of tobacco usage. Research has revealed a real resistance to quitting and a demonstrable lack of awareness of the available resources to engage and utilize smoking-cessation programs.
But the message is clear – legislatively and from a health perspective. It’s time to quit. And for the New Year, what better present can one give than giving someone a chance to breathe air free from smoke, toxins and poisons that can kill.
A recent visit to a restaurant
Recently, an African American family visited a favorite family dining spot – a popular chain restaurant with locations throughout the state offering standard fare and moderate pricing. When approached by the hostess to be seated, without much thought, the father indicated a preference for a booth in the non-smoking section. Much to his surprise, the hostess informed him that smoking is no longer allowed in the restaurant, demonstrating that they were ahead of schedule in adhering to Wisconsin’s legislative smoking ban which will eliminate the presence of tobacco within their establishments come July 2010. It was equally surprising given the fact that they were allowing smoking only two weeks earlier.
Subsequent to that experience, upon entering another eatery several days later (another popular chain establishment located in the Miller Park area) a Latino professional was seated at the bar as he waited for friends to arrive. He immediately noticed the butt-filled ashtrays and strong presence of cigarette smoke emanating from a source he couldn’t locate – but that had no problem locating him. As he surveyed the surroundings, it appeared that this establishment might have some work to do in preparing patrons for the coming smoke-free change.
“Everybody smokes when anybody smokes”
Carrying the “Everybody Smokes When Anybody Smokes” message into 2010, subsequent action aimed at cessation will undoubtedly be promoted vigorously. It would behoove communities, health professionals and concerned citizens to address this issue head on, engaging every means available to overcome any obstacles preventing a change to a healthier lifestyle. While quitting isn’t easy and addictions carry weighty penalties, they can be conquered utilizing resources available.
The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program network includes a variety of measures which very likely may provide the resources necessary to make those “stop smoking” New Year’s resolutions permanent.
There are many great reasons to quit:
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both men and women
- Secondhand smoke has proven to be just as harmful as smoking to children and families
- Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart attacks
- Smoking is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants
- Smoking weakens bones and can cause infertility
- Smoking causes many diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, stroke and coronary heart disease just to name a few
- Smoking significantly reduces life expectancy
- It has been shown indisputably that quitting smoking is beneficial at all ages – the earlier the better
- The cost to smoke continues to increase with the cigarette tax at over $2.50 alone making Wisconsin the fifth highest in the nation.
The financial impact is also enormous. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Wisconsin where more than 7,300 people die annually as a result of smoking. The cost to the state exceeds $2 billion dollars in annual health care bills including $480 million to Medicaid. The taxpayer cost for Wisconsinites now stands at $594 yearly.
While these facts are irrefutable, there are plenty of remedies and resources accessible to check the deadly smoking addiction.
- The “Free” Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line – The quit line has helped more than 50,000 state residents in six years of operation and has saved the state some $42 million in avoided health care expenses.
- Plan your quit – Research shows that planning the day, method and sustenance plan by which you’ll follow a quit strategy is most helpful to those who are committed to quitting. Help can be found at: www.cancer.org
- Online help – The American Lung Association offers a free online program that has been completed updated and upgraded. It can be accessed at: www.ffsonline.org
- Help for long-term smokers – Clear Horizons is a program designed to effectively address the issues of smokers over 50, demonstrating that quitting at any age is possible. Find them online at: www. myclearhorizons.com
- Consult your physician – “My Time to Quit” is a web site which can assist in providing helpful tips when talking to your doctor about cessation. Your personal physician is one of the best sources of information on available prescription treatment options. For more info, go to: www.mytimetoquit. com
- Proven Prevention Medicines – You can double the chances of quitting success by following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It’s hard to argue the success rates of proven treatments and medications. Find out more at: www.smokefree.gov
- Family and Friends – The best support mechanism could very well come from family and friends who want to help you succeed at quitting. The American Cancer Society understands the stress related to the quitting experience and knows how beneficial encouragement and support from those around you can be. They have many helpful tips and suggestions about putting this support structure in place at: www.cancer.org