State must boost smoking cessation efforts

May 4, 2009
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Did you know more women die from lung cancer than any other form of cancer, including breast cancer? Each year more than 150,000 women die from illnesses related to smoking — a silent deadly killer and the most preventable cause of premature death in this country. The vast majority of lung cancer deaths are a result of smoking, either past or present. Although many more women are diagnosed with breast cancer, many more will die of lung cancer because breast cancer is more treatable and preventable.

Additionally, studies show that a smoker’s risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers. Smokers who have heart attacks are also more likely to die and die suddenly, often within an hour. Another staggering statistic: Smoking causes an annual drain of more than $3 billion on the Michigan health care system.

As a tobacco addiction specialist of Tobacco Free Partners in Grand Rapids, I meet women of all ages who smoke and many who try to quit. Studies show that only between 2 and 7 percent of smokers who try to quit smoking stay smoke free for more than a year. This is because nicotine addiction is a chronic medical condition. Each and every cigarette takes another 11 minutes off a smoker’s life. For many children, this is precious time with their mom, at any age, that they will be robbed of. For daughters, it steals their future. For older women, it steals their vitality, energy and promise of the golden years.

Women across Michigan, I urge you to pay attention.

Today, more than ever, there are programs, over-the-counter and pharmaceutical solutions to help smokers quit. The good news is that offering help in quitting is as cost-effective as childhood immunizations. Smoking cessation programs work, and smokers across Michigan need better access to them. Services like personal counseling and FDA-approved medications can help smokers quit. Behavior modification must be incorporated, as well, for success.

Recently, the State of Michigan Quit Line had to call it quits, ending its offer of free gum and other products for those who want to quit. This tells us that people are trying hard to quit but are experiencing challenges in getting the help that they need.

For many women, their occupation — often as a waitress, bartender or even a casino employee — places them in a smoking environment. Unfortunately, a smoking spouse or significant other can also contribute to the problem at home. A ban would protect these women and their loved ones.

More than 30 states have declared war on smoking with public bans. It is time for Michigan to stop lagging behind and take real action with access to real help that will initiate a tipping point. Free patches, gum and lozenges are not enough.  

Resources are available to help smokers quit and live longer. Make the commitment to quit today. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Visit www.tobaccofreepartners.org for more information or call (616) 975-0123.

Laura Van Heest is cessation and education coordinator for Tobacco Free Partners in Grand Rapids.

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