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For a healthier state and a healthier you, quit smoking and vaping

For a healthier state and a healthier you, quit smoking and vaping

Aug. 3, 2022

By Katie Minor

When I was in elementary school in the early 2000’s, anti-smoking ads were a big thing. With all the horror stories and presentations we got about how bad it is to smoke cigarettes, I couldn’t imagine ever falling victim to such a bad habit.

I knew that smoking was mostly popularized before I was born, so I asked my mom if she ever smoked a cigarette — not imagining my level-headed parent would ever do such a thing. 

I was shocked when she told me she developed a smoking habit at the age of 12. She later quit, but it wasn’t easy.

For many of us, we live in a culture clouded with cigarette smoke. Our parents smoked, their parents smoked and even now that we know how deadly it can be, smoking is still a big problem — especially in West Virginia.

Monday, Aug. 1, was World Lung Cancer Day, but it’s always a good time to know the facts.

The West Virginia DHHR has found that our state is the least healthy state in the U.S. when it comes to tobacco use. Currently, 25.2% of adults living in West Virginia are smokers — smoking every day or some days. Compare that to the national average of 15.5%.

There are a lot of factors that affect West Virginia’s high rate of smoking. One of them is poverty. Generally, those with an annual household income of $25,000 or less are more likely to smoke cigarettes than those with an annual household income of $75,000 or higher. With West Virginia being one of the country’s most impoverished states, it becomes much more likely that people here may smoke.

Even those affected by secondhand smoke are at risk. Secondhand smoke, which is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and smoke breathed out by smokers, contains more than 7,000 chemicals and can still cause cancer.

Sadly, many of those affected by secondhand smoke are young children and teens living in a household with a smoking family member.

While teens affected by secondhand smoke do not make the choice to be exposed, teens are also fighting the risks of smoking themselves. In 2019, 13.5% of high school students in West Virginia reported smoking cigarettes, compared to the national rate of 6%.

But smoking isn’t the only bad habit that can lead to lung cancer. While the number of cigarette-using high schoolers in West Virginia is high, more high school students report using e-cigarettes or vapes.

Vapes have exploded in popularity in the last few years. There is not a lot of research done on vaping, and because it is a fairly new practice, we likely won’t see the effects for years to come. 

Still, studies have shown correlations between vaping and contracting lung cancer later in life. Research has also shown vaping leads to a greater likelihood of smoking cigarettes in the future.

The best way to avoid lung cancer is to avoid tobacco and vaping. Tobacco use is not only the leading cause of lung cancer, but it also damages nearly every organ, weakens the immune system and leads to stroke, heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes.

It’s difficult to quit smoking or vaping, as most people become dependent on the addictive drug nicotine found in tobacco and vapes. While it takes time and effort to quit smoking, there are plenty of benefits. Quitting smoking increases your quality of life and life expectancy and lowers your risk for virtually every disease. Even if you’ve smoked for many years, you will still benefit from quitting.

The best course of action is a combination of medication and counseling. The West Virginia Tobacco Quitline is a program for those who want to quit using tobacco, and is available free or low-cost, depending on your insurance. 

Participants can sign up online to receive calls with coaches to assist in quitting. The calls are free, and smokers are twice as likely to quit smoking when they have a coach.

The program also offers an eight-week supply of nicotine patches, lozenges or gum. Just call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get started with the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline.

While quitting might feel impossible, millions of people have been successful in quitting smoking for good. Why not make some strides towards a healthier life today?

Katie Minor is the public information office assistant at Monongalia County Health Department.

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