Anti-smoking effort must start early
Less smoking leads to more birthdays -- a simple truth that the American Cancer Society hopes to get out for this year's 34th Great American Smokeout on Thursday.
They make a point.
Research shows that people who stop smoking before age 50 can cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half, compared to those who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit also reduce their risk of lung cancer -- 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's.
And there are some instant benefits as well. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop only 20 minutes after quitting.
"We know that quitting smoking is tough, and that most smokers have to try several times before quitting for good," said Mike Lefler, director of communications for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society.
"The American Cancer Society offers a variety of effective resources ranging from online tips and tools to personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists," he added. "We hope that smokers will use the Great American Smokeout to map out a course of action that will help them to quit, and in turn to stay well and celebrate more birthdays."
Check out the Great American Smokeout Web site (www.cancer.org/GreatAmericans) for tips, tools and calculators.
There are good reasons to make the effort:
* Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.
* Cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 premature deaths -- including 49,400 in nonsmokers.
* Thirty percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, can be attributed to tobacco.
* Smoking accounts for about $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses.
We've made some progress, with adult smoking rates declining to 19.8 percent among adults in 2007.
But adults aren't the main demographic we should be worried about.
Each year, the department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska State Patrol and Omaha Police Department test the rate of tobacco sales to under-aged youth.
Law enforcement teams up with underage cooperating individuals who use their own identification and attempt to buy tobacco products from a randomly selected list of merchants from across the state. The individuals make no attempt to look over the legal purchase age and range from 15 to 17 years of age.
Unfortunately, Nebraska's buy rate has been edging up since 2005, when the rate was 10.7 percent. In 2009, cooperating teens attempted buys in 767 locations and made purchases in 104, a statewide rate of 13.6 percent.
"Using tobacco products can become a lifelong habit for many people," said Dr. Joan Schaefer, chief medical officer for DHHS. "It leads to many health problems and is the single biggest cause of preventable death.
For information on quitting tobacco and keeping youth from starting, visit the Tobacco Free Web site at http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/tfn.
Information about under-age tobacco sale inspections, including a list of Nebraska retailers who sold tobacco to minors, is available at http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/hew/sua/synar.htm.