Cigarettes: The Good News & The Bad News

Let’s start off with the GOOD news – the CDC’s anti-smoking TIPS campaign has turned out to be far more successful than they had dared to hope! Over 1.6 million smokers had a quitting attempt, and at least 200,000 smokers DID QUIT as a direct result of the shocking pictures and stories featured in this unique national program. The Lancet published a wonderful article this week summarizing all the findings: Effect of the First Federally Funded U.S. Antismoking National Media Campaign.

I have always maintained that stories are more powerful than statistics. Sure enough, this campaign is chock-full of stories from former smokers- people sharing extremely painful negative consequences from their nicotine addiction. Virtually every complication from smoking is shared: heart surgery scars, asthma, artificial limbs (from damage to blood vessels), artificial voice boxes (from throat cancer), COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and of course, lung cancer, to name a few. Hearing from Terrie- a former cheerleader, points out the dangers of “social smoking” in college. Likewise with Michael, who smoked in the military. Click on the TIPS from Former Smokers 2013 to hear and see more…and share with any of your friends or family or co-workers who still smoke.

The campaign goals are to increase public awareness of both immediate and long term health risks of smoking- both first-hand, and from inhaling second-hand smoke. Note that for every person who dies from smoking, 20 more Americans are LIVING with a smoking-related illness. The CDC wants to encourage and support smokers who are ready to quit, as well as encourage them to limit other people’s exposure to their second-hand smoke. 

So that was the good news…now the bad. Just last week, Notes from the Field: Electronic Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students- United States, 2011-2012 was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. E-cigarettes are not a new cell phone app, they are true electronic cigarettes that are battery powered and deliver nicotine and other byproducts via an aerosol. Worse yet, they can add sweet “childhood” flavors- fruit, mint or chocolate. Really??? Does the industry have NO conscience???? Not surprisingly, they are portrayed as “safe smoking” (anyone else reminded of “safe sex” campaigns?) and teens are jumping on board. E-cig use doubled in this time period, yielding nearly 2 million (1.78, lest I exaggerate) students trying out nicotine in this delivery system last year. Please note that although we do not yet have long-term studies on the “pure” damage of these e-cigarettes, we know that nicotine is damaging to adolescent brain development and, hello- nicotine is ADDICTIVE. If you get addicted via e-cigs vs. dipping vs. “regular” cigarettes- the outcome is the SAME. You are ADDICTED to NICOTINE.

BOTTOM LINE: There is still NO AMOUNT of smoking that is GOOD for you, so please, help encourage your friends who are already smoking to QUIT, and parents, please warn your kids that e-cigarettes are NOT SAFE. NICOTINE is ADDICTIVE in ANY FORM.

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