The myths and realities of tobacco use

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Hispanics, according to a 1998 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body – not only the lungs – but also the brain, kidneys, eyes, bladder and heart. With coronary heart disease as the leading cause of death among Hispanics living in the U.S., it is clear that tobacco use is an important risk factor.

There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, according to the National Cancer Institute. Of these, 60 are proven to cause cancer. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and toxic, including arsenic, which is used to kill rodents; ammonium, regularly used for cleaning floors and toilets; and hexamine, more commonly known as barbeque lighter fluid. Who wants that in their lungs?

Myths about smoking grow from not knowing the facts. But also from manipulation by the tobacco industry’s marketing and advertising effort. Big tobacco spends almost $190 million in Arkansas each year. So, education is the best way to fight back. Below are five common myths about smoking.

~ MYTH #1: If people want to quit smoking, they will

Smokers say, “I can quit whenever I want.” But it’s not that easy. Cigarettes contain the drug nicotine which has the addictive potential of opium and may provide feelings of calm to the user. Nicotine withdrawal may cause the smoker to feel nervous, experience headaches, hunger and changes in heart rate, all of which can be difficult to manage. Though the benefits of quitting are obvious and well-documented, many people still have to try several times before successfully quitting, and quitting is much easier with counseling support and proven medications. More than half of the Americans who have ever smoked have already quit.

~ MYTH #2: Everyone knows how bad smoking

Today with warning labels on every cigarette package, many people believe they know that smoking is harmful. However, many times, smokers are not aware of just how harmful smoking can be, not only to the smoker, but also to their families and friends who are subjected to their secondhand smoke.

In Arkansas alone, 4,900 adults die each year from their own smoking, leaving 3,600 kids with the loss of one parent to a smoking-related cause, every year. Add to that the 440 – 780 who will die in Arkansas each year from secondhand smoke and pregnancy smoking, and the numbers are quite staggering.

~ MYTH #3: Just a few cigarettes a day can’t hurt

Many believe that only those people who smoke many cigarettes a day are at risk for serious health problems. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of tobacco-related deaths among smokers and nonsmokers. This disease can be seen among those who smoke as little as three to five cigarettes a day.

~ MYTH #4: Quitting medications don’t work

There are many different medications out on the market that can improve your chances of success when trying to quit. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as the patch, gum, nasal sprays, and lozenges can double the chance that a person will quit successfully. Using these along with a counseling service can significantly improve the chances of success.

~ MYTH #5: Smokers may die earlier, but they only loose a few bad years at the end

Studies have shown that smokers who die from tobacco-related illnesses cut approximately 14 years from their lives. The idea that those years at the end of their lives are not worth living is erroneous because studies have shown that 95% of this time would be free from bad health and disability. The truth is as smokers begin to age they begin to exhibit health issues that do not affect non-smokers—elderly smokers often have the physical and mental health of nonsmokers two to ten years older. Smoking is bad for you whether you live or die, and contributes to a shorter life burdened by health problems and disabilities.

So what are the options?

Smokers can always find excuses to continue smoking, but every day, with new information, the chances for success for those who are serious about quitting increase.

Hispanics in Arkansas who wish to stop smoking have the same access to services to help them in this challenging quest.

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services’ SOS Stamp Out Smoking campaign by the Arkansas Department of Health has Spanish-speaking interventionists on staff to help those who are ready to quit.

It’s as easy as picking up the telephone and calling 1-866-669-7848 (1-866-NOW-QUIT.) Your call is completely confidential

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