Stubbing Out Cigarette Use
Smoking has been quite the hot topic recently, especially since the FDA released photos of the new (very) graphic warning labels for cigarette boxes. Media outlets have published the results of multiple new smoking-related studies - and the news isn't one bit good. Many cities, towns, and college campuses are also adding to the anti-smoking frenzy by proposing smoking bans that would prevent smokers from lighting up in public places. Today, we'll take a look at the latest findings on smoking and at the ways anti-smoking advocates are trying to help American smokers quit.
The Latest on the Effects of Smoking
Thirdhand Smoke: Thirdhand smoke is defined as "the gases and particles that cling to clothing, hair, furniture, walls and other surfaces long after a cigarette is stubbed out...the smoke you don't see, but that your nose tells you is there." While indoor ventilation may remove about half of the cigarette's particulate matter, it leaves behind tar, oil, and wax compounds, building up "a giant reservoir of cancer-causing compounds on every surface." Further, smoking does not need to take place indoors to deposit this matter on surfaces - the smokers themselves carry the thirdhand smoke inside (Peeples, 2011).
Moving Ratings Policy Change: A proposed policy would "allow leading movie characters to accurately portray people who smoke cigarettes, but would assign adult ratings to movies in which nameless, faceless background characters smoke, unless they are scripted to speak against smoking." This proposed policy came about through an attribution of 390,000 new youth smokers to film's portrayal of smoking without consequences. The policy creators claim that this change would prevent 200,000 new youth smokers per year and save 120,000 lives per year (Newswise, 2011).
Women's Health: A large-scale European study "found that the harmful effects of tobacco smoke on atherosclerosis, one of the driving forces of cardiovascular disease, are greater in women than in men." The study results showed that there is a higher correlation between tobacco exposure and thickened carotid arterial walls for women than men (The Times of India, 2011). Recent research has also shown a tie between smoking and increased sex hormones in older women. An increase in sex hormones testosterone and estrogen can lead to breast cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Fortunately, women who stop smoking are able to reduce sex hormone levels and, therefore, reduce the related comorbidity risks (Boyles, 2011; Mitchell, 2011).
Bladder Cancer: In a study of 450,000 participants, "the NIH found that smokers were four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers, compared to a threefold risk found in earlier studies." The researchers attribute the increase in cancer likelihood to a change in cigarette composition over the years, possibly increasing concentrations of carcinogens associated with bladder cancer (Longley, 2011).
Most people are aware that smoking is "bad" for them and that it can lead to cancer, emphysema, and other respiratory conditions. It's thought that one's lack of kicking the smoking habit is less about ignorance of the harmful effects and more about the inability to quit because of psychological, social, and emotional reasons. Smoking is part of a daily routine, it has it's own significant place in a smoker's life. It also may be used as a tool to relieve anxiety or pass time.
Some newer smoking cessation programs and advocacy campaigns are focusing on ways to help smokers quit rather than educating them about what they already understand. Some cessation methods, such as electronic cigarettes, focus on replacing the smoking action with something less harmful. However, policy change has recently been a popular way to encourage smokers to quit, but it is fraught with issues, such as infringement on smokers' personal freedoms.
Sometimes unintended effects of policy and campaigns may affect public health in unexpected ways. In a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found a price-related overall decline in the use of cigarettes by young African-Americans from the 1970s-1990s. Though this policy/price change affected cigarette use, it did not stop the population from turning to "forms of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs" (MSN, 2011a). Policy changes, such as bans on smoking on certain college campuses or in certain towns may produce similar unintended effects, especially considering the research that shows smoking cessation being even more difficult for those with other addictions (MSN, 2011b).
Those who are interested in finding help to quit smoking can find information, support, and tools at http://www.smokefree.gov.