Great American Smokeout 2014

SmokeoutSince the late 1970s, the Great American Smokeout has taken place on the third Thursday in November.  Over the years the event has grown, but the goal has remained the same: to challenge people to quit smoking, if only for one 24 hour period.  If you decide to take the challenge, you will be in good company, as almost one-third of American smokers could be quitting for the day.

So what will happen when you give up smoking for one day?  Your heart rate will drop back to normal levels as will your blood pressure.  Your hands and feet will also warm up.  After eight hours, the nicotine that is in your bloodstream has been cut in half, and the oxygen levels are back to normal.  Within the first 24 hours, the carbon monoxide has been removed from your body, the mucus is clearing from your lungs and you can start to breathe easier.  Your risk for a heart attack has also begun to drop.   And this all happens within 24 hours.  Imagine what will happen to your health in the following weeks and months if you quit tobacco for good!

As with everything that you want to succeed at, you have to have a plan.  First, you need to make the decision to quit and prepare.  You can call your state quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) to learn more.  Second, let your friends and family know about your decision.  Your friends may also be taking the day off from tobacco and you can help each other with quitting.  Third, get rid of the cigarettes, ashtrays, and other tobacco products even if it’s for one day so reminders are not in your face.  Fourth, have mints, gum, water, fresh fruit and veggies available in case a craving hits.

smokeout1Quitting is a big deal, even for one day, and smokers aren’t the only ones who may decide to quit tobacco.   If this is your year to quit for good, try putting the money you would spend on tobacco away and at the end of the year reward yourself for a job well done.  Not only will you have nice “quit fund”, but you will have better health and the start to more birthdays.

Click the highlighted link for more information on The Great American Smokeout.
If you want to know more about how your health will get better with each passing day, click here.


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World Diabetes Day

Everyone should know by now that using tobacco is bad for your health, but if you are diabetic or prediabetic and using tobacco, your blood sugar numbers could be higher than normal and causing additional health complications.   November 14 is World Diabetes Day and November is American Diabetes Month.  This is a great time to learn how tobacco is hurting your blood sugar numbers.

Being diagnosed as diabetic means your body does not produce enough insulin or your body isn’t using the insulin as well as it should, causing excess sugar in your blood, which can be measured by a blood test. The excess sugar in your blood isn’t moving into your cells to provide you with energy.  Over time the excess sugar can damage blood vessels and create serious problems throughout the body.

PADSmoking increases your risk of diabetes and does additional damage to your blood vessels. Nicotine and chemicals in cigarette smoke cause your vessels to narrow, making it more difficult for oxygen in your blood to reach your tissues.  Smoking also contributes to fatty deposits on artery walls, further narrowing them.  People with diabetes are more likely to develop Peripheral Arterial Disease in which blood flow is reduced to legs and feet.  If left untreated PAD could result in gangrene and amputation.

Tobacco products also contain sugars that increase your blood sugar levels.  Of the almost 600 ingredients in a cigarette, about 20% of it is sugar.  The Philip Morris website lists their ingredients by brand, and sugars (sucrose and/or invert sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup) is listed as the third ingredient by weight in their cigarette products.

Smokeless tobacco also contains sweeteners and amounts can vary between brands. Sugar content of pouch tobaccos ranged between 24% and 65%; plug tobacco was 13% to 50%. Even snuff, a smokeless tobacco of ground tobacco leaves that is inhaled into the nose, has about a 2% sugar content.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 29 million Americans with diabetes and 25% don’t know.  More than 1 in 3 American adults, about 86 million, have prediabetes, a condition where “blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.”  Some risk factors for developing diabetes can’t be controlled, such as family history, race and age.  But some factors such as weight, inactivity and tobacco use can.  If you have symptoms of type 2 diabetes such as an increased thirst and frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores or frequent infections, or areas of darkened skin, make an appointment with your doctor.  The sooner you seek treatment for diabetes, the sooner you can get your symptoms under control.

Click HERE for more information on diabetes.


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The Veteran and Tobacco

The military and tobacco seem to have a long history.  As far back as the American Revolutionary War tobacco was important to the military, but back then it was used “as collateral for the loans the Americans borrowed from France.”  It was less about the military personnel smoking and more about tobacco farmers losing their exports as the British destroyed the tobacco in retaliation.

During the Civil War, destruction of tobacco crops and naval blockades of ports reduced tobacco for civilians, but not so for the soldiers who often just helped themselves to the tobacco crops as they marched to their destination.  Sailors serving the U.S. Navy had been getting tobacco rations for years and not to be outdone, by February 1864 the GrantConfederate army also started supplying their soldiers with tobacco rations.  These rations came in handy with Southern soldiers as they traded their tobacco with Union soldiers for Northern coffee.  Tobacco probably helped stave off hunger as food was at times in short supply.  The Civil War ended, but it was the start of tobacco rations to all soldiers.  The end of the war also was the beginning of the first commercially-made, hand-rolled cigarettes.

Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War Union general, started out as a pipe smoker during the war, but switched to cigars.  When a newspaper article showed him with a cigar in his mouth, ordinary citizens sent him thousands as a thank you for his Union victories. From then on he was rarely seen without a cigar, going through as many as 20 during the day.  He went on to become the 18th President of the United States, and died of throat cancer in 1885, twenty years after the war ended.

Prior to World War I, loose tobacco and pipes were most common, but warfare insoldier_smoking muddy trenches made smoking a pipe difficult.  Rations of loose tobacco and rolling papers gave way to rations of manufactured rolled cigarettes. Families at home were encouraged to send their soldiers smokes while one cigarette manufacturer, Bill Durham, smokes“sold the whole of its cigarette production to the War Department in 1918.”  Tobacco was so important during the war that at the request of General John J. Pershing, cigarettes were part of the daily rations.  Free smokes for the soldiers meant lifetime smokers after the war.  WWI ended in 1918, but by the 1930s, about 12 years after the end of war cases of lung cancer, which was a rare disease at the time, were starting to be seen.  The war to end all wars ended, but the free smokes given to the soldiers meant lifetime smokers after the war.

soldiersAnother World War reinforced the smoking culture. Rations for soldiers included “meat, vegetables and starches,” and of course cigarettes. According to America in WWII only 30% of manufactured cigarettes made their way overseas, but it was the best brands such as “Chesterfields, Camels, Kools, and Pall Malls.”  Cigarettes from home still made it in packages cigarette_campsdestined for military family members serving overseas and caused shortages here in the States. Cigarettes were so much a part of the culture that camps set up in France for soldiers traveling to the front lines were named for popular cigarette brands. These same camps processed the men as they headed home.  Even American Red Cross packages to prisoners of war contained five packages of cigarettes.  As the war ended, those who made it home were now loyal cigarette customers.


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Lung Cancer Awareness Month

The calendar page has been turned to November, and with it, a new health awareness, Lung Cancer Awareness Month.   Lung cancer was a rare disease in the early part of the 1900s, but as the prominence of smoking increased during and after World War I, so did the disease.  It is now a leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. with more people dying from it than from pancreatic, breast and colorectal cancers combined, but smokers aren’t the only ones getting lung cancer.  As more became known about secondhand smoke, it became increasingly evident that those exposed to tobacco smoke were also susceptible to lung cancer.

causes_of_lung_cancerWorkers exposed to asbestos fibers have an increased change of developing lung cancer, but those who smoke have “a risk that is fifty- to ninety-fold greater than nonsmokers.” Naturally occurring radon gas exposure also increases the risk of developing the disease. Individuals may also be genetically predisposed to developing lung cancer.  Living around air pollution, having a lung disease or a prior history of lung cancer may also increase the risk.

symptoms1While anyone can develop lung cancer, about 90% of the cases are associated with smoking and the more you smoke over a longer period of time, the greater your risk of lung cancer.  Quitting will decrease your risk of developing the disease with each passing year. Early diagnosis is key to catching the disease, but up to 25% of people report no symptoms prior to the cancer being discovered during routine tests.  Check with your doctor if you have symptoms that won’t go away.  Both the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society have excellent websites with valuable information on lung cancer.


Click HERE for more information on lung cancer.
Click here for Uncommon Lung Cancer Facts
Symptoms of Lung Cancer graphic via

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Money in the Coffers from Big Tobacco

Election time is fast approaching and by now you are probably tired of the relentless bombardment of campaign advertisement commercials.  For weeks now candidates on both sides have spewed forth negative comments about their opposition, all while appearing to adjust their own halos.  It takes money to keep these campaigns running, and while the candidates are accepting your money, they may also be accepting money from the tobacco industry.

According to the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the tobacco industry contributes money to federal candidates and spends millions lobbying Congress.  It seems that there would be a conflict of interest for politicians to take money to promote the tobacco industry’s interests while at the same time voting on public health policy interests.  Yet both Democrats and Republicans have accepted money from the tobacco industry.

ASH has compiled a map showing the amount of money representatives in your state have received from the tobacco corporations.  They have also compiled a list of Senators and Congressmen who have NOT accepted campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in the last 10 years.  And if you are not sure who your representative is, there is a link on the page as well.

Check out the ASH page and map


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Raising the Tobacco Age

21Opinions are running high on the proposal in the state of New Jersey to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.  New York City is also considering a higher age limit.  The old argument for keeping the lower age limit goes something like this:  if 18 year olds are able to vote, join the military and marry, they should be old enough to buy tobacco. There are always pros and cons to every argument.

Yes, 18 year olds can vote, but the 18-24 year old age group typically have a low turn out. They are able to vote, but few exercise that choice.  Yes, 18 year olds can join the military, but it is not a requirement as it is in 26 other countries.  In the United States, joining the military is a choice.  Yes, 18 year olds can marry, but most of their parents are against it, and most teens lack the emotional maturity to maintain the relationship.   It is, however, still a choice.

But arguing for keeping the smoking age at 18 should also include why the drinking age was raised back to 21.  One reason was to reduce “the number of alcohol-related deaths on the nation’s highways,” which was “perceived to be a drunken driving epidemic.” Another reason was that the “developing adolescent brain is affected differently by alcohol than the adult brain.  The earlier one starts to drink, the more likely he or she will experience alcohol dependence and related problems later in life.”

All the arguments for raising the smoking age to 21 seem mirror all the reasons the drinking age was raised.  While the President’s Commission Against Drunk Driving deemed drunk driving an epidemic, the first line of the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report called tobacco use a “pediatric epidemic.”  After this report was released, the parent company of Philip Morris agreed and stated “kids should not use tobacco products, and we share the common goal of keeping tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”

As with alcohol, the younger a person is when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users.  Nearly 90% of smokers reportedly started smoking regularly by age 18 while their teen brain was still developing and changing. Young people have a choice whether or not to use tobacco, but their immaturity is often their enemy and a factor in their experimentation.  Their consequential thinking and decision-making skills are just not there; however, impulsivity and risk-taking are. Experimentation with tobacco and the rapid onset of nicotine addiction in youth can set them up for lifelong health consequences before they have a full understanding of the addictive properties of tobacco.

Voting, marriage and joining the military are all choices.  Once young people start using tobacco, however, their choice regarding continuation is often taken away by their addiction to the product.  Raising the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 provides young people more time to develop informed decisions about an addiction that could shorten their lives.

Click HERE for news article.

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2014 Red Ribbon Week


It’s the 29th year for Red Ribbon Week, from October 23-31, 2014, the nation’s largest and oldest drug prevention campaign in the U.S.  This year’s theme is “Love Yourself, Be Drug Free.”  The ribbon movement began in 1985 by a community in California committed to keep the memory alive of a murdered federal drug agent.   National Family Partnership, (formerly National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth established in 1980), went on to adopt the red ribbon as a symbol of NFP’s commitment to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drugs and alcohol as well as tobacco, which could be considered a gateway drug.

A gateway drug is one that is easy to get, that leads the user to possibly use more dangerous illicit drugs in the future.  Tobacco would be considered in this category because it is easily available for adolescents, and legal for those over 18 to purchase.  In a national survey, researchers found that over 90% of adult drug users “between the ages of 18 and 34 were cigarette smokers before they began using drugs.  The changes in the brain from nicotine is one reason tobacco users seem to be more susceptible to certain drug addiction.

The Red Ribbon Campaign not only teaches students about drug prevention, but also helps inform parents about their other program called Lock Your Meds.  It urges parents to lock up all prescription medication to reduce prescription drug abuse among children.  You can find out more about the program by clicking the highlighted link.

Teaching students about the dangers of tobacco, as well as other drugs, helps students to say_nomake healthy decisions through their life.  Our teachers and schools make a difference in the lives of our students, and Red Ribbon Week is a great start to opening dialog between students, teachers and their parents about drug prevention.

Click HERE for more information about Red Ribbon Week.
Click HERE to learn how you can enter the 2015 Red Ribbon Theme Contest.

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Breast Cancer Awareness and Smoking

The month of October as been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remind women the need for self-exams and mammograms.  The stigma of breast cancer has gone from being whispered about in the past to now being discussed on live television during football games.

pink_ribbonAs new treatments and therapies are developed for breast cancer, there are more survivors, but sadly there are also too many who have lost their life to this disease. Some of the risk factors for breast cancer can’t be controlled, such as being a woman, age, or family history, but one factor can, and that is your use of tobacco.

When looking at the relationship between breast cancer and smoking, researchers have found risks that increased the possibility of getting the disease.  One such increased risk factor is for those women who start smoking early, before their first menstrual cycle.  Those women had a 61% higher risk of invasive breast cancer.  If a woman started smoking after her first menstrual cycle, but “11 or more years before having a child,” she still had a 45% higher risk” than nonsmokers.  The reason given is that “breast tissue is not fully developed until after a woman has her first child, and that makes it more sensitive to the harmful effects of tobacco.”

Being exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke may also increase the risk of breast cancer. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, “the evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between tobacco smoke and breast cancer… or between exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and breast cancer.” Secondhand smoke and the risk for breast cancer is still being studied, however, it has produced breast cancer in laboratory rodents.

Smoking not only raises your risk of breast cancer, but raises the risk of other cancers and health issues, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Smoking also makes it difficult to heal after surgery, and women who smoked and opted for breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy were three times more likely to suffer implant loss than nonsmokers.

There are many factors for the risk of breast cancer that you can’t control, but smoking is one that you can.

Pink ribbon from Breast Cancer Awareness

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Fire Prevention and Smoking

Fire2Home is where the heart is, unfortunately it is also where a person may be more likely to die in a fire. More house fires are caused by cooking equipment, but smoking materials, such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, caused more home fire deaths.

During 2007-2011, 43% of house fires happened in the kitchen and resulted in approximately 17% of home fire deaths.  Smoking materials caused a substantially lower number of structure fires (5%), but they resulted in the highest number of fire deaths at 22%.  These smoking material fires are usually started in the trash, in bedding or in furniture; however, the most fatal of these fires start in the living room, family room or den where a smoker was sitting on upholstered furniture.

Fires started by smoking are “the number one cause of  home fire deaths,” and are preventable.  You can protect yourself and your family by following these simple rules:

- Only smoke outside, and ask family and friends who are smokers to do the same.
- Provide sturdy ashtrays in your smoking spot and
- Discard the matches and butts into a can of water or pail of sand to make sure they are completely put out.

You can also protect your family by checking your smoke alarms every month and changing batteries twice a year, when you move your clock back in the fall and forward in the spring.  Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.

Click here for additional ideas or watch the FEMA video by clicking on the image above on how you can prevent home fires caused by smoking

For more information on this subject check out these links:
The Consequences of Fire
The Smoking-Material Fire Problem
Facts About Smoking and Home Fires


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World Heart Day 2014

World Heart Day is an annual event with a different theme each year relating to heart heart1health.  You hear the media talk about “heart healthy choices” but have you ever considered how your environment may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease?  This year’s theme of World Heart Day is creating heart-healthy environments because “the places in which we live, work and play should not increase our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

Most people associate smoking with increased breathing problems, such as emphysema. They never take into account that tobacco use is also damaging to the heart, as well as the lungs, and causing damage to blood vessels that could lead to stroke.  Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home, at work or in places they frequent, can also develop cardiovascular disease in addition to breathing problems by being exposed to smoke.

At this current time, there is no national federal smoking ban in the U.S., and as of January 2, 2014, only “28 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants.”  Those states with smoking bans have made it healthier for both patrons who frequent the businesses and the employees who work there. Smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing have also become important because it reduces the amount of secondhand smoke to which nonsmokers are exposed, reducing heart attacks in adults and respiratory illnesses in both children and adults.

Creating smokefree policies create healthy environments for everyone involved.

Click HERE to learn how you “can make more heart healthy choices.”



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