Luckily, I beat the odds. Being raised in a cloud of smoke made me hate cigarettes. When I moved away from my parents’ house and as public smoking became more and more unacceptable, I became so unaccustomed to smoke that now when it wafts my way, I truly cannot tolerate it.
And luckily, I didn’t hang with the cool kids, so it didn’t even occur to me to pick up a bad habit in an effort to get in with the popular crowd.
For those who do smoke, quitting is difficult. The easiest thing to do is not to start in the first place. Because it really doesn’t make anybody look cool, and it’s bad for them in so many ways.
Along those lines, we got some great news last December. According to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), the rate of adults who smoke in West Virginia declined from 28.6 percent in 2011—one of the highest rates in the United States—to 24.8 percent in 2016.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, the commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, said the decline is the first evidence that middle and high school students who never smoked and are growing up are finally making an impact on the larger adult population.
And while that 24.8 percent is a good drop from 28.6 percent, it’s still nearly 10 points above the overall rate in the U.S. of 15.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And it’s way above the rate in states such as Utah (8.8 percent) and California (11 percent).
That’s where the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day comes in. This year, it takes place on Thursday, May 31, and the theme is “Tobacco—A Threat to Development.”
One reason is that around the world, according to WHO statistics, tobacco kills 7 million each year. But tobacco has other impacts in areas that some people might not expect.
For instance, it costs households and governments more than $1.4 trillion through health care expenditures and lost productivity.
Cigarettes are also bad for the environment. According to WHO:
• Tobacco waste contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens.
• Tobacco smoke emissions contribute thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants and greenhouse gases to the environment. And tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally.
• Up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily are disposed in the environment.
• Cigarette butts account for 30–40 percent of all items collected in coastal and urban cleanups.
Around the world, tobacco makes a lot of impact on lives, especially women and children:
• Poverty: Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10 percent of total household expenditure—meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.
• Children and education: Tobacco farming keeps children from attending school; 10–14 percent of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.
• Also, 60–70 percent of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals.
• Tobacco contributes to 16 percent of all noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) deaths.
As WHO notes, tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of noncommunicable diseases.
While not starting to smoke is best, there’s also help for folks out there who want to kick the habit. After all, smoking can lead to cancer and heart and lung disease, and secondhand smoke is harmful not only to strangers but to friends and family, including kids and pets.
The West Virginia Tobacco Quitline was established in 2000 and has since enrolled more than 73,000 people for Quitline services. Here is what the Quitline offers:
• One-on-one proactive coaching for tobacco users who are ready to quit.
• Information on tobacco dependence for health care professionals.
• Information about local resources to help tobacco users quit.
• Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), which includes patches, gum and lozenges. NRT is delivered in two shipments of four each week.
• Four free proactive coaching calls.
• Unlimited reactive coaching calls.
• Free educational materials and personalized quit plan.
• Fax-to-Quit Program—a form to fill out to join this program is available online.
If you smoke, give Quitline a call at 304-QUIT-NOW. And access more information and the above form online at http://dhhr.wv.gov/wvdtp/cessation. Celebrate WHO’s World No Tobacco Day by kicking cigarettes to the curb!