Last week, a friend of mine ended up in the hospital. He is a healthy looking 20-something and he was suffering from atrial fibrillation. With a pulse of 192, his heart was racing and he had passed out twice earlier in the morning. His body was sending him some SERIOUS signals. The first thing his doctor said was that he needed to quit smoking.
The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. This year, that day is Thursday, Nov. 20. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life, one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — just under one in every five adults. The statewide rate in Georgia is slightly lower than that but, in Newton County, almost one in every four adults smoke cigarettes.
And one in 11 pregnant women in Newton County smoke cigarettes, putting our infants at increased risk for many health problems with lifelong consequences. According to studies, smoking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, altered cardiorespiratory responses, increased risk of stillbirth, increased asthma and wheezing, and higher rates of poor cognitive and behavioral outcomes in children, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One particular outcome that has been studied in the state of Georgia is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and findings show a 20% association between smoking during pregnancy and SIDS.
Tobacco use in teens and adults is a major risk factor for heart disease, chronic respiratory disease like emphysema, and many types of cancer. If you are a smoker, this is not news to you; your doctor has probably already told you this. Take a moment and think about that: a decision you make today dramatically affects the likelihood that you will suffer from one of those chronic diseases. How many times in our lives have we wished we had a “take back”? The Great American Smokeout is your own “take back” with community support.
But your health is not the only cost of smoking. Did you know that for each pack of cigarettes you buy (and the average cost in Georgia is $6.39 per pack), you will spend $35 on health related costs? The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates that the annual amount of money the average adult smoker in Georgia would save by quitting smoking is $1,510.
We have already seen strides in Newton County to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke through smoke-free policies in schools and parks. The state of Georgia has been a smoke-free state since 2005, and it was almost 25 years ago (in 1990) that the Federal government banned smoking on interstate buses and flights of six hours or less.
The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity for all of us to help make our community a healthier place. Make Nov. 20 the day we save our cash and our lives! Visit the Great American Smokeout website for more information (www.cancer.org). And visit the Newton County Health Department (at 8203 Hazelbrand Rd), their website (www.gnrhealth.com), their Facebook page or Twitter feed for more information about quitting. If you are not a smoker, learn how you can support your family, friends, and coworkers as they make the commitment to quit.
Whether it is your commitment to quit or that of a friend, family member, or coworker, Nov. 20 is a great day to quit in Newton County.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.