The American Cancer Societys Great American Smokeout, a program that began more than 40 years ago, has been a nationwide promotion of the American Cancer Society since 1977.
The third Thursday of November, smokers are challenged to stop smoking for that one day and hopefully turn that one day into a lifetime of not smoking. While it cannot be solely attributed to that one smoke-free day, the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes has decreased dramatically from the mid-1960s when nearly half of the population had a pack of smokes close at hand, to just 17 percent in 2014. Thats the good news.
But nobody really talks about The Great American Smokeout which fell this year on Thursday, November 17, anymore; perhaps it is time to roll out a new iteration of the anti-tobacco promotion, for the sake of our young people.
Fewer Americans may be smoking overall, but the number of cigarette smokers in middle and high school remains steady.
The tobacco habit is being indulged in other ways that are on the rise, as well: hookahs, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes and predominantly by youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this spring that e-cigarettes are now the favored means of tobacco use among young people. Although e-cigarettes decrease the intake of dangerous additives like tar, they still dispense nicotine, an addictive drug.
Nicotine activates reward pathways in the brain, posing a particular health hazard to teens whose brains are still forming. The pleasure derived disappears quickly, but the desire for that sense of reward increases, and a behavior difficult to stop becomes a lifestyle. Additionally, researchers raise concerns that the use of e-cigarettes may create a nicotine addiction that will segue into smoking the higher nicotine regular cigarettes.
The novelty, sense of reduced harm, and flavored options are an attraction to the younger generation. Young vapers should be reminded that putting anything into the lungs outside of air increases the chances of respiratory problems.
Millions live with tobacco use-related diseases. Nearly half a million people die in the United States every year from smoking cigarettes, a number that includes 42,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure; and the CDC expects one in every 13 Americans under the age of 17 who is alive today to die an early death related to tobacco use.
The Great American Smokeout may have been successful in reducing the actual smoke roiling about our heads, but the increased use of smokeless tobacco products by young people means that health strides are being, well, vaporized. If you missed this years Great American Smokeout, and want to kick the habit; if someone you love is addicted to nicotine, dont wait for 2017. Pick a day any day and make it a goal to put the nix on nicotine use, in all its forms, every day.