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Great American Smokeout can change, light up lives

November 19, 2008
Tomorrow (Thursday) is a special day that many should celebrate, not because it's a national holiday, but because it's a day that can make thousands of people live longer, healthier lives. It's a day when many should pause and consider the impact their habit is inflecting on themselves — and their loved ones. It's a day that far too many ignore.

Thursday is the day that has been designated as The Great American Smokeout by the American Cancer Society, which encourages people who smoke to give up the habit for 24 hours, hoping their decision to quit will last forever.

Missy Stroud, a project coordinator for the Indiana Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund (ITPC), is now working full time in Crawford County to help the state's efforts to reduce smoking and the illnesses that accompany tobacco use.

"I'll be working in Crawford County now, stopping by small businesses, schools and other places in the county to put up flyers and talk to people and encourage them to call our 1-800-Quit-Now phone number. Calling this number will put you in touch with a real person who can offer help and support for anyone wanting to quit using tobacco products. The caller will receive a series of steps they can follow to help quit, and will be mailed a two-week supply of their choice of either gum or patches, free of charge."

ITPC's goal is to significantly improve the health of Hoosiers and to reduce the disease and economic burden that tobacco use places on Hoosiers of all ages. The agency will coordinate and allocate resources from its trust fund to:

•Change the cultural perception and social acceptability of tobacco use in Indiana;

•Prevent initiation of tobacco use by Indiana youth;

•Assist tobacco users in cessation;

•Assist in reduction and protection from secondhand smoke;

•Support the enforcement of tobacco laws concerning the sale of tobacco to youth and use of tobacco by youth; and

•Eliminate minority health disparities related to tobacco use and emphasize prevention and reduction of tobacco use by minorities, pregnant women, children, youth and other at-risk populations.

"The more educated we are, the more aware we become of how dangerous smoking really is," Stroud said. "With cigarettes, it's not just the tobacco that is bad for your health. You also take in smoke from the paper, and there are all kinds of chemicals added to tobacco products. And cigarettes labeled as 'light' are misleading, also. People who smoke 'light' cigarettes usually just consume more cigarettes in order to get the same amount of nicotine."

Stroud also focused on several products that are now being marketed to young people by the tobacco companies.

"Camel now has a cigarette called 'Camel Crush,' a customizable cigarette that contains a small, blue menthol capsule within the filter," Stroud said. "By squeezing the filter, the capsule is crushed and releases chemicals into the filter, transforming a regular cigarette into a menthol one in a matter of seconds."

Stroud also mentioned a product called 'snus,' a Swedish type of smokeless tobacco that is beginning to catch on in this country. Snus, which rhymes with 'goose,' is not like most smokeless tobacco in that it comes in a small pouch, similar to a small tea bag, that a user sticks between the upper lip and gum, leaves there for about 30 minutes, and discards without spitting.

Tobacco companies, as no-smoking laws are passed all over the country, are devising ways to try to make tobacco more appealing. Now that smokeless tobacco is the largest growth product in the tobacco business, snus is an effort to boost sales with a product that doesn't require a smokeless user to spit out tobacco residue.

"There's now a nicotine strip, much like breath strips, that a person can put on their tongue," Stroud said. "It works great for school. But it's still nicotine. And athletes are now using snus by putting it between their toes, which will trigger the nicotine in the pouch when their feet sweat. Nicotine addiction is a hard habit to break. And many will go to extremes to get their nicotine fix.

"But we have to stay focused on educating our youth, to try to keep them from becoming addicted in the first place. Tobacco is the only legal drug in the United States that kills people. And we now know how dangerous secondhand smoke is. People who are exposed to second-hand smoke take in about as much smoke as a regular smoker, and it can cause the same side effects, including lung cancer and other diseases."

Stroud went on to name products that can help people quit using tobacco, including nasal sprays, inhalers, nicotine gum and patches.

"There's even a pill (Zyban) people can take that can help quit," Stroud added. "Some insurance companies will cover these products and even Medicaid will pay for nicotine cessation items.

"It takes about five years for a smoker's lungs to begin healing after they quit smoking. But over time, the lungs will repair themselves. But we have to keep working to try to get more and more people to quit. If someone in a family smokes, it will be an influence on young people in that family to do the same.

"Our principals, teachers and coaches are all role models for children, so it's important to make school campuses smoke-free, to not expose young people to smoking. We want everyone to live a longer, healthier life.

"That's why the Great American Smokeout is so important. It can save lives and suffering caused by smoking."

Stroud now has an office in the Patoka Family Health Center at 3075 Indiana Ave. in English and can be reached at 338-2924.

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