Tag Archives: smoking statistics

Neurodevelopment of Infants Born to Mothers Who Smoke

Research statistics gathered by a study lead by Professor George Wehby of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health have revealed startling evidence about the neurodevelopment of babies of mothers that smoke during pregnancy, and these facts are much worse than expected.

The study’s female participants were from health clinics in the countries of Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. It included assessing 1,600 children.

Smoking Jeopardizes Infants’ Healthy Development

Trained physicians performed cognitive tests along with assessing the children’s basic neurological function and communication skills in their surveys.

They found a disturbing fact: that mothers of unborn children continue smoking during pregnancy are subjecting their babies to as much as a 40 percentage point increase in the probability of being at risk of developmental problems by the ages of three and twenty-four months.

Part of the reason for this high percentile is double-fold. Many of the mothers sampled were from a poor socioeconomic status. Mothers who are poor have been found to smoke in greater quantity and have less access to proper prenatal care.

The study also included additional controls that many other research studies did not, which refined the study’s accuracy. The full details of the study are available in: George L. Wehby, Kaitlin Prater, Ann Marie McCarthy, Eduardo E. Castilla, Jeffrey C. Murray, “The Impact of Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy on Early Child Neurodevelopment.” Journal of Human Capital 5:2 (Summer 2011).

FDA Warnings for Mothers Who Smoke

In 2005, 12 percent of pregnant women in the US still smoked while pregnant, thinking of foremost of themselves over their babies’ healthy development. An unborn baby is not protected from the dangerous chemicals a mother’s body absorbs from cigarette smoking.

The FDA’s new cigarette package labels include a warning on the dangers of second hand smoke to unborn children as one of their 9 new label designs in hopes to lower this statistic.

Reference: Kevin Stacey, kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
University of Chicago Press Journals, 773-834-0386

Minnesota is Kicking Butt!

There’s some great news to share from the anti-smoking front: more people are quitting and fewer people are starting.

In a recent presentation to the American Heart Association, researchers unveiled these positive findings.

Where there is still work to be done, the numbers are quite promising.

The Thirty Year Smoking Study

University of Minnesota researchers discovered a significant and positive trend amongst smokers surveyed between the years 1980 to 2009: more and more people are quitting smoking, and less and less are starting in the first place.

The number of male smokers and the number of female smokers over this thirty-year period has decreased by more than half. The number of men who reported ever smoking a cigarette decreased from 72% in 1980 to 44% in 2009. For women, 55% in 1980 had smoked a cigarette, whereas by 2009 only 39% had.

Furthermore, researchers discovered that the number of cigarettes smoked per day on average has significantly decreased: both men and women reported smoking ten cigarettes less per day on average than compared with rates from 1980.

Reasons Behind Increased Quit Rates

The increased number of people quitting smoking is likely due to a few different factors. More and more governments are adopting legislation to heavily regulate not only the sale of cigarettes but the use of them too. For instance, in jurisdictions where indoor smoking bans have been implemented, the rates of people quitting have gone up.

There has also been an increase in the number of programs available that are funded by tobacco settlement funds. Researchers also speculate that the rising costs associated with smoking have played a large contributing factor to people quitting.

Finally, an effective reason for people to quit smoking: there has been a gradual transformation of people viewing smoking as an acceptable social past time to one attached with social stigma.

Kick Your Own Butt

There are many smoking cessation resources available for people wanting to quit or for people wanting to help others quit.

And remember that while cutting back on smoking is a good first step, any amount of cigarettes is still dangerous to one’s health.

Reference
Minneapolis Study Points to Sharp Drop in Smoking Rates by Amanda Gardner [http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=645915]

Smoking Bans – Smokers Not Hire Ready

Employers are using smoking vs. non-smoking as one of the criteria to hire employees.

Whether a person smokes or not could be a deciding factor even before you have been E-Verified.

For smokers looking for gainful employment, their addiction makes the possibilities even harder than they may realize.

Fair Debate for Smokers and Non-Smokers

Smokers are willing and able to work in smoke-free environments and can put up with it in order to work.

Once that craving hits though, they will sneak outside on breaks to have a few puffs of nicotine until quitting time. The working smoker’s perception is they have the best of both worlds – a smoke-free environment on the inside of the workplace and a chance to smoke on the outside during working hours.

The non-smokers want to work in smoke-free environments. A smoking policy inside an employees place of employment will provide an environment free of second hand smoke … except:

What if the employee who smokes reeks of cigarettes

What if the second hand smoke finds its way through open windows, doors, and hallways from around the building.

What if smokers begin smoking in bathrooms, or stairwells?

Then an environment is not truly smoke free and for employees a non smoking is really non-existent.

The Win/Win/Lose

Hospitals and other smoke-free conscious employers are pulling out the stops for justifying their no smoking policies.

With the current healthcare reform policy, employers are justifying the testing of potential employees.  Nicotine tests similar to random drug testing are qualified and being administered.

If non-smokers are hired it is less likely the employee will be hospitalized for ailments related to lung cancer. Insurance cost savings is the rationale for these tests because they can save on costly medical expenses in the future.

Medical costs will be considerably less because symptoms related to asthma, bronchial infections, and allergies will not exist.  Families will be healthier and have less cause to visit the doctor or fill a prescription.  Insurance premiums will not have to cover as many catastrophic illnesses related to smoking and second hand smoke.

If a ban on hiring smokers is embraced by businesses in all 50 states, a long road of tough economic times will be facing those that smoke if they refuse to quit.  Smokers will feel defeated not because they lack the skills to perform their jobs but lack the skills to quit smoking to gain and keep their jobs.  Being a smoker will have a stigma that has obvious and detrimental consequences.

Quit While You Can

These bans are the sign of the times and smokers need to prepare to move with them.  If you are currently unemployed, be aware that your smoking addiction is a possible criterion as to whether you land the next job.

Still working and smoking? Higher insurance rates especially for smokers and other unnecessary risk takers are certain to be the norm. Cessation Programs may have some provisions that give you a timeline to quit before your insurance rates and premiums are dramatically increased.

An important part of your life may be your career.  Do not let smoking be the thing that ends it.

References:

  1. WHO POLICY ON NON-RECRUITMENT OF SMOKERS OR OTHER TOBACCO USERS
  2. Smokers Not Hired

New Zealand, Clearly Becoming Smoke-Free

If you want to stop smoking then pack your bag and fly over to New Zealand.

While you are there New Zealand tobacco regulatory agencies will offer you the facts on smoking dangers and by 2017 you may have to leave the country to buy tobacco products.

New Zealand is one of the many countries incorporating smoking bans, and like Canada they are banning smoking in your car.

Under the Influence While Driving

In New Zealand now you could be fined for smoking while driving in your car.

If you are a cigarette smoker you may be asking, “Do they fine people if they are not driving, but just sitting by the side of the road with the car ignition off?”

Or you might even ask, “Is there a smoking airbag that will explode if I am smoking in my car?”

Seriously, it does matter if you smoke while driving. You are polluting the air around you with second hand smoke. Windows up, windows down; it doesn’t matter.

Passengers who are riding with you including young children are also subject to your second hand smoke that could lead to potential harm, like contributing to asthma and other bronchial ailments.

It’s a Matter of Respecting Others


Young children are more at risk for these ailment because their lungs, like the rest of their bodies are still in the development stage.

The casual cigarette puff near a crib where an infant may be sleeping has been known to result in Sudden Death Syndrome. Children’s lungs actually take in more air because they breathe faster. They are unable to turn away from the smoke and of course infants do not know how harmful the smoke from tobacco is or even what it is.

A child who is around an adult smoker might draw closer to the lite cigarette because it is something new and their curious minds want to investigate. They do not know any better.

Adults may not want to smell your second hand smoke either. Many people are polite and will tolerate the fumes when they accompany you walking, driving or riding in a car.

Also, think about it. Many friends will endure second hand smoke before offending you. You might ask how you will feel if in time they suddenly fall victim of an unexplained bronchial infection, cancer, and other ailments that are known to be smoker related.

New Zealand’s Stop Regulations and Initiative

If we take the initiative and see what’s working for the people of New Zealand, (we are not saying they are doing everything right) we might learn something. Their smoking rates are considerably lower than those in other countries, including the US.

Why not concentrate on more aggressive efforts to teach our kids not to smoke. How about becoming a good example by not smoking nor exposing our children to friends who still smoke. These three actions would be a good start.

Paying higher premiums for healthcare services could also be a major game changer to help smokers quit.

New Zealand is on the right track to help smoking statistics drop in their country, which will in turn improve the quality of life for everyone. In fact, on September 5th,  2007, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in New Zealand called for the removal of tobacco from sale by 2017.

Smoking Related Fires: Unattended Smoking Materials Attribute to Natural Disasters, Civilian Deaths, and Injury Each Year

Smoking does not just cause health problems.

There are other cigarette dangers that go beyond the the obvious. They are a known fire hazard as well.

Fires caused by cigarette smoking are disastrous because an unattended cigarette can destroy an unknown number of lives directly and indirectly … and in an instant.

Statistics on Fires Related to Cigarette Smoking

Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires in a year nationwide. That’s why some insurance companies offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in the house do not smoke.

Insurance breaks for households where the occupants don’t smoke is probably one of the major reasons why smoking is no longer allowed inside or on the grounds of most work places hotels, restaurants, and pubs.

Unattended Cigarettes Cause Natural DisastersFACT: Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Roughly one of every four fire deaths in 2007 was attributed to smoking materials.

In 2007, there were an estimated 140,700 smoking-material fires in the United States. These fires caused 720 civilian deaths and 1,580 civilian injuries.

More fatal smoking-material fires start in bedrooms than in living rooms, family rooms and dens.

Older adults are at the highest risk of death or injury from smoking-material fires even though they are less likely to smoke than younger adults.

The most common items first ignited in home smoking-material fire deaths were upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding.

Worldwide the loss of material goods and real estate is in the billions of dollars.

Who Do Fires Caused by Cigarette Smoking Hurt the Most?

Young children are the most vulnerable because their inquisitiveness and thirst for knowledge make them easy targets for experimentation with things they do not quite understand.

Toddlers crawl from pillar to post putting things in their mouths like lighters, cigarettes (new and used) and pipes. They are only imitating what they see their adult mentors do on a daily basis.

And while your impression is that the toddler will not be able to light that cigarette — smoke that pipe — or knock over that ashtray — while you are out of the room, major fire disasters can erupt. For example: You are in the kitchen cooking dinner while you think little Johnny is in his bed taking nap and…

Injury to Adults and Seniors

Adults to seniors, although on the opposite end of the spectrum of young children, fair no better because they can get careless and nod off to sleep, dropping that lit cigarette on a mattress, sofa, or carpet.  Smoke inhalation is such a powerful thing that it can keep you asleep longer and deeper than that well known brand of sleeping pill.

The Other Loss

We must also mention those who are left grieving for their lost loved one. We must also mention the family that survived the fire is left behind to grieve for the loved ones they lost. They’re still trying to understand how something so small as a cigarette could have caused so much damage.

And then there is the neighbor, tired after a 10 hour work day.  She arrives home while on the way thinking about a nice hot bath and a good night’s sleep to learn that she is suddenly homeless. The cigarette smoker next door may have caused a fire that consumed everything she owned other than the clothes on her back and the shoes on her feet.

Consider the Risk, Consider the Disaster

Cigarettes are the number one cause of house fire fatalities. And we haven’t even mentioned outdoor fires causes by careless smokers.

Fires caused by cigarettes result in around eight-hundred plus deaths each year. These fires usually occur when a smoker falls asleep without extinguishing a cigarette.

House fires from unattended cigarettes generally occurs at night, when the whole family is asleep, which can make it difficult for everyone to evacuate in time.

If you or another family member has a tobacco habit, make sure that no one ever smokes in bed.

As of March 2010, all 50 US states passed legislation and achieved their goal in getting cigarette manufacturers to produce only cigarettes that adhere to an established safety performance standard.

If you do smoke think about others. Stay alert and only smoke outside away from non smokers (and dispose of the butts properly). It is better for your family’s health and this one action will reduce the risk of a house fire.

Or better yet, don’t smoke at all and relieve everyone around you from an unnecessary potential disaster.

Way to Go California – 1 800 No Butts at Your Service

California’s Example Provides Encouragement that Smokers Can Stop

Today in the LA Times, it was reported that the use of cigarettes in California is steadily declining.

Smoking statistics for adults have dropped since California passed a twenty-five cent tax on each pack of cigarettes.

Cigarette Taxes Encourage Quitting Smoking

The decline of adult smokers in California is at forty-one percent since the new tax, reported by data from the Department of Public Health.

pic-cigarette-notThis is great news and offers hope that the newly-passed government cigarette tax may just stop many smokers in their tracks.

Eric Bailey, from the LA Times states, “Anti-smoking advocates are celebrating this week’s 20th anniversary of California’s groundbreaking tobacco-control effort by releasing new data showing that cigarette use is continuing its steep decline in the Golden State.”

Last year only thirteen percent of California adults were addicted to cigarettes, which is a ten percent decrease since 1988. Another encouraging bit of data is the decline in youth smokers, which is currently a little over fourteen percent and one of the lowest percentages in the entire nation.

Way to go California!

No If’s or Butt’s About It

For those smokers who are wanting to quit, try calling the 1 800 No Butts quit smoking help line. Calls are currently up twenty-five percent since last year. This is another example that people are seriously considering the health hazards of smoking and the cost of their cigarette habits.

Our hats go off to 1 800 No Butts. Kimberly Belshe, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, reported the estimates of lives saved through this program the last twenty years is as high as one million and over eighty-six billion dollars in health care expenses.

Credit for this article goes to the LA Times
For more information contact eric.bailey @ latimes.com

Watch a Short Video From California’s 1-800-No-Butts

 

Small Changes Can Help Prevent Cancer

Making small changes could make a big difference in preventing cancer.

Avoid preventable risk factors by incorporating these guidelines into of your lifestyle.

Three choices can make a vast difference in increasing your odds for staying healthy and keeping yourself in check.

Don’t Smoke Tobacco

Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, accounts for about 30 percent of all cancer deaths and costs billions of dollars each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

In the United States, cigarette smoking is responsible for about 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death. Smoking cigars and pipes or chewing tobacco isn’t safe either.

“The importance of not smoking cannot be over emphasized in the prevention of cancer,” says Dr. Thomas Johnson, oncologist with Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group. “Quitting is imperative for anyone who uses tobacco. Even people who have used tobacco for many years reduce their risk of cancer by quitting, as compared to people who continue to use tobacco.”

Toss Cigarettes Away“The predisposition for lung cancer does run in families,” Johnson says. “Smokers with relatives who have contracted lung cancer are at extremely high risk for developing cancer themselves, due to their genetic makeup.

You will often see multiple cases of lung cancer in a family that has a history of COPD, emphysema or lung cancer — those family members are predisposed to cancer and should not smoke.

Tobacco use alone increases their risk of cancer by 10 to 20 percent.”

Eat Healthy Foods and Get Regular Exercise

Fully one-third of cancer deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity and carrying excess weight.

The American Cancer Society recommends that you limit foods high in fat, eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day and limit alcohol, if you drink it at all. Include moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week to help achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

“Being overweight increases cancer risk by causing the body to produce and circulate more of the hormones estrogen and insulin, which can stimulate cancer growth,” said Dr. Dee McLeod, oncologist with Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group. “Studies suggest that people whose diet is high in fat have an increased risk of cancers of the colon, uterus and prostate. Lack of physical activity and being overweight are risk factors for cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney and uterus.”

Avoid Harmful Sun Exposure

Most skin cancer occurs on exposed parts of your body, including your face, hands, forearms and ears. When going out in the sun keep these tips in mind: Avoid peak hours of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., stay in the shade, cover exposed skin with clothes and hats and use sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.Get immunized

Certain cancers are associated with viral infections that can be prevented with immunizations. Talk to your doctor about immunization against Hepatitis B and the Human Papilloma Virus.

Get Health Screenings

“For many types of cancer, by the time that there are symptoms, the cancer is too far advanced to achieve a cure,” McLeod says. “Cancer screenings identify those at high-risk for cancer, and to be most useful, must detect cancers before symptoms would cause a person to seek care. Early detection is so often a key factor in successful treatment.”

Screenings should include tests to detect cancers of your skin, mouth, colon and rectum. If you’re a man, it should also include your prostate and testes. If you’re a woman, add cervix and breast cancer screening to your list. Visit www.cancer.org to find the American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection of Cancer.

For more information on cancer prevention and treatment, visit The SacredHeart Cancer Center.

The Sooner You Quit Smoking, the Better Your Chances of Recovery

Studies suggest that ex-smokers may face increased health risks from cigarettes for years to come.

Some of the damage that cigarettes inflict on the body subsides quickly, halving the risk of heart disease and stroke within five years after a smoker quits.

But the effect of smoking on risks of cancer and other diseases can persist for decades, experts say.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), 71, who quit smoking in 1980, still faces some increased risk of cancer from smoking two packs a day for 25 years, studies suggest.

President Barack Obama (D-Ill.), 46, who says he has struggled to stay off cigarettes since quitting last year, may have less long-term risk because he smoked fewer cigarettes per day.

Better to Quit Smoking When Still Young

A major message of the research is that people who quit at a young age are far better off than those who put it off until later.

Obama and McCain, both of whom waited until their mid-40s to quit, would have been measurably better off if they had stopped a decade sooner, experts said.

Young Girl Smoking“If you quit by age 35, by the time you’re 45 you look pretty much like a never-smoker in most of our profiles of risk,” said Terry Pechacek, associate director for science at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office on smoking and health.

The danger intensifies as smokers approach their 30th year of addiction, Pechacek said.

The risk of getting lung cancer for a person who has smoked for 30 years can be six times greater than the risk for someone who has smoked for 20 years.

Some of smoking’s effects may be irreversible. For example, the chronic bronchitis that many smokers develop heals only partially. And quitting cigarettes often has little effect on emphysema, which stems from the damage that cigarette smoke can cause in the lung’s fine structures.

“That stuff doesn’t repair itself,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association.

Getting other risks down to normal can take time. A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that among women who smoked for 20 years on average, it took 30 years after quitting for their risk of lung cancer to reach normal levels.

Yet heart disease risks declined much more rapidly, the study found. Within five years of quitting, the excess risk from smoking had fallen by 61 percent.

“Clearly there are immediate benefits for some diseases,” said study co-author Stacey Kenfield, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It’s never too late to stop.”

Cancer risks are more difficult to get back to normal because of how that disease progresses in the body, experts said.
Genetic damage

Each cigarette has the potential to inflict small bits of genetic damage that can accumulate over time and cause cancer later in a smoker’s life. The longer a person smokes, the more cells get damaged, and the longer it takes for the body’s repair mechanisms to remove the damaged cells.

Smoking is Like Climbing a Mountain

Pechacek of the CDC compared the process to climbing a mountain; smoking more cigarettes takes a person farther up the slope. “If you smoke too long, [you] may not have enough years left to get back down to the base,” he said.

One measure of an ex-smoker’s risk is expressed in “pack-years,” the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years a smoker was addicted. McCain, who smoked two packs a day for 25 years, would have about 50 pack-years, while Obama, who smoked less than one pack a day for about as long, would have fewer than 25 pack-years.

Smoking Risk Calculator

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York has posted an online lung cancer prediction calculator (at mskcc.org/mskcc/html/12463.cfm) that uses pack-years and other information to assess an ex-smoker’s risk of developing cancer. Some researchers have debated the usefulness of pack-years in such predictions, arguing that overall duration of smoking matters more than the number of cigarettes smoked.

Like many smokers who try to kick the addiction, Obama says he has suffered smoking relapses since first attempting to quit last year. Such setbacks are less important than the ultimate goal, Pechacek said.

“Usually it takes three or four quits before a person is successful,” he said. “We need to stop looking at those as failures, because really they’re steps toward success. You’re building the skills you need to quit.”

Source:  Jeremy Manier – Chicago Tribune

Statistics Reveal Smoking’s Hidden Death Toll

Smoking causes hundreds of thousands more deaths each year than previously thought, dramatic scientific research has revealed.

A study, led by experts in Glasgow, showed heightened chances of dying from cancers of the colon, rectum and prostate, as well as from lymphatic leukaemia.

These illnesses cause 930,000 deaths worldwide each year, in addition to more than five million smoking-related deaths estimated by the World Health Organisation as being caused by diseases such as lung cancer, which have long been linked to smoking.

Scotland’s health minister and anti-smoking campaigners have welcomed the study as further proof of the need to clamp down on the habit.

About 13,000 Scots a year die of lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases, such heart illnesses. Another 1,600 people die in Scotland each year from the cancers newly linked to the habit.

The Scottish Government last month unveiled controversial new plans to curb smoking, by proposing a ban on cigarettes being displayed in shops. And ministers south of the border have suggested scrapping packs of 10 cigarettes because of their popularity among young smokers.

Bagpipes in GlasgowThe new study, which has been published in the journal Annals of Oncology, was carried out by a team led by experts at Glasgow University and was based on data from 17,363 male civil servants based in London. Information about their health and habits has been collated since the 1960s in an effort to gain information about health trends and find links between lifestyle and illness. The original link between smoking and lung cancer was found through similar analysis of medical data.

The study found:

  • A 43% increase in the chances of dying from cancer of the colon if the person smokes.
  • A 40% higher likelihood of dying from rectal cancer.
  • An increase of 23% in the chances of losing one’s life to prostate cancer.
  • A 53% rise in mortality from lymphatic leukaemia among smokers.

The study concluded: “Cigarette smoking appears to be a risk factor for several malignancies of previously unclear association with tobacco use.”

Dr David Batty, of the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, based at the University of Glasgow, said: “What this study shows is that smoking is linked to more kinds of cancer than previously thought. It’s important to remember that cancer is not a single disease and that the various kinds of cancers are different illnesses so you couldn’t necessarily assume that smoking was linked to them in the same way. What’s unclear is how exactly smoking causes these cancers.”

Health Minister Shona Robison said: “This study appears to demonstrate that smoking is even more carcinogenic than was realised.

It also underlines the importance of Scotland’s smoking ban in public places, which is helping to safeguard the health of thousands of people working in previously smoky environments.”

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Scotland, said: “This large-scale study adds to the weight of existing research confirming the harmfulness of smoking. It’s vital that smokers receive support and encouragement to quit and as a nation we take steps to ensure future generations avoid getting hooked on this lethal and highly addictive substance.”

Ed Yong, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “The dangers of cigarette smoke go far beyond its well-known link to lung cancer. It’s interesting to see that even after 50 years of research, studies are still revealing new dangers.”

However, one leading medical experts questioned the conclusions.

Fouad Habib, professor of experimental urology at Edinburgh University, and an expert in prostate cancer, said: “This study is bit of a surprise and very much the first of its kind. Until now it’s not been thought that there was any link between smoking and prostate cancer and I would have thought that there are factors which play a much greater role, such as genetics.”

Meanwhile, smokers’ groups insisted the research should not be used to push through tougher anti-smoking rules.

Neil Rafferty, spokesman for the smokers’ lobby group the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, said: “We are not suggesting the smoking is anything other than bad for you. People enjoy it, but they know that it’s not good for them and they take the choice. No doubt the anti-smoking lobby will want to use this to erode our freedoms still further. At the end of the day, we are adults. Let us get on with our lives.”

Source: Murdo MacLeod, News.scotsman.com

A Bachelor’s Degree for Quitting Smoking?

For Nora King, a former chain-smoker with a master’s degree, it was neither a harrowing visit to her doctor nor a disturbing news article on the latest findings about the damage of cigarettes that caused her to put down her smokes once and for all.

It was a television commercial she saw a year ago in her New York City apartment that vividly illustrated what goes on inside a smoker’s body that made her decide to try to quit though a new study suggests the academic work she did years ago may have helped, too.

“The commercial showed the white stuff that builds up in smokers’ arteries,” King, 44, said. “It was really graphic and gross, and I would turn my head every time it came on.”

Visual images in stop-smoking ads have been a mainstay of stop smoking campaigns for years, but researchers at the University of Wisconsin recently found they may be more effective helping those with a college degree than those with a high school diploma or only some college.

“Smoking rates have declined steadily since 1966 for college-educated smokers with some college, but they have declined far more slowly for people who have high school, and we wanted to know why that is,” said Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s department of population health sciences and an author of the study.

Cigarette smoking has declined among adults in the United States from about 42 percent of the population in 1965 to about 21 percent in 2005 (the latest year for which numbers are available), according to the American Cancer Society. Figures from the society’s Web site show that about 45 million adults currently smoke cigarettes – and 24 percent of men and 18 percent of women are smokers.

For their study, Niederdeppe’s team interviewed a representative sample of smokers: some who had a college degree, some who had some college experience, and some who had a high school diploma.The smokers all saw stop smoking ads, and a year later, the research team then came back and interviewed the same group to see who had tried to quit and who had been able to quit in that period.

“Some type of media messages were less effective for people with lower levels of education,” Nierderdeppe said, “but we weren’t able to say definitively why that is.”

He said that the greatest discrepancy between groups trying to quit occurred based on the type of ad that encouraged the smoker to keep trying to quit, even though it’s hard, and they can call a helpline for support.

“We saw a big difference between education levels for the keep-trying-to-quit ads,” Niederdeppe said.

A reason Americans without a college degree responded less to the stop smoking ads is because education is tied to socioeconomic status and less-educated smokers may have less access to quit resources and may be less likely to be given medications to quit, Niederdeppe said.

The essence of the ads that college-educated smokers responded to, “If you keep trying to quit, you can do it,” may not be true for smokers who are in a lower socioeconomic status, said Niederdeppe.

“This message may not resonate with their experience,” he said. “Higher educated people have much more resources, social resources, and environments that restrict smoking.”

Nancy DiMartino, 61, who has some college but no degree, said commercials haven’t helped her quit.

“There’s an old saying: nothing scares an addict,” she said.

Picture of Graduation CapDiMartino, a former transcribing legal secretary who took several college credits to become certified, said, cigarettes help her deaden her emotions, so she’s out the door to the store to buy cigarettes as soon as she feels a negative emotion coming on.

“Cigarettes numb me out like alcohol does for an alcoholic, or drugs do for a drug addict,” she said.

Although her father died of emphysema, DiMartino said that the powerful chokehold nicotine has on her, physically as well as mentally, has made quitting a seemingly impossible task.

She successfully managed to quit for five years, but it didn’t last. One recent Christmas Eve, after she lost her job with a government agency, she was mugged.

The stress proved to be too much, and DiMartino picked up where she had left off.

Even when one of her grandchildren saw her smoking and began to cry, begging her to stop smoking, she has been unable to leave the habit behind for a second time.

DiMartino knows what kind of danger she is putting herself in by continuing to smoke.

“I have carpal tunnel syndrome and it’s getting worse,” she said. “I know I could wind up on an oxygen tank. But whenever I see those ads, I think that this could never happen to me,” she said.

Source: The Modesto Bee
Original source: Jessica Freiman, Columbia News Service