The other day, I called my best friend. She had just learned her holiday weekend trip home to Illinois would be moved up a day but not for a good reason. Her octogenarian father was having open heart surgery. She called her mom to tell her she was leaving to make the seven hour drive, but first warned her that she was smoking again, after trying to quit recently.
As a supportive friend, I told her not to worry about that right now. I know she needs to quit, I’ve talked to her about it, but a stressful time like this definitely wasn’t the time to harass her about it.
Fortunately her father is doing well, but my friend falls in a category many other Americans find themselves in – they cannot quit smoking. In 2008, 21 percent of adults (more than 46 million) were still smoking and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that number held steady for 2009. In fact, the number hasn’t changed much in the past six years. Twenty percent of teens are still smoking, with that number seeing little improvement.
What’s the problem? Officials are afraid it is due in part to the anti-tobacco campaigns being cut and clever marketing ploys by tobacco companies which include discounts.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, points out that smoking is still the #1 preventable cause of death in America and that it kills approximately 1,000 Americans each day.
And the smokers aren’t just harming themselves. A report by the CDC found that almost all children – 98 percent – who live with a smoker have tobacco toxins in their bodies.
I know here in Jacksonville, many places have now ban smoking. The annual smoking report by the CDC showed that our blood levels of a chemical found in smoke (cotinine) had dropped over the past 10 years. But, there is bad news. The largest part of the decline came 10 years ago. Another bad statistic is that more than half of the children ages 3 to 11 are still exposed to secondhand smoke.
Officials from the CDC and American Heart Association agree that unless bold actions are taken, secondhand smoke will continue to affect the health of both the young and old.