Health officials, students notice tobacco industry’s lasting impact

When US Surgeon General Luther Terry released the first report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health in 1964, he highlighted the reality of the effects of smoking and the role of the tobacco industry in creating addiction among Americans.

According to the Cancer Network, the report was impressive, but the tobacco industry began to challenge the health consequences researched by the US government, rather than giving up one last puff and allowing itself to be left behind.

“(The advisory committee’s) findings are all we know,” said James Gaskell, health commissioner and medical director of the Athens City-County Health Department. “Their findings were that there was a strong association between lung cancer and smoking and a strong association between smoking[and]chronic bronchitis and emphysema.”

Gaskell said another association found in the report was between smoking and coronary artery disease.

Smoking and tobacco cause the highest rate of mortality in the US, according to the CDC, and tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the country. One out of five deaths in the US each year is due to cigarette smoking.

The Great American Smokeout is a challenge led by the American Cancer Society to help people quit smoking. About 34 million Americans smoke cigarettes today, according to the American Cancer Society, and although there was a 67% reduction in smokers — from 42% to 14% — from 1965 to 2019, successes have not been consistent.

The number of Americans who smoke cigarettes is also disproportionate among different identities. For example, in a 2020 CDC report, 27.1% of Native Americans age 18 and older smoke cigarettes, while 13.3% of white Americans smoke every day or some days. This is partly due to the cultural, ceremonial, religious, and medicinal uses of tobacco in indigenous cultures that may influence attitudes toward commercial tobacco. According to the CDC, the various effects of systemic discrimination, poverty, and other social factors are another possible reason for the increase in tobacco use. Tobacco companies also exploit and target vulnerable groups through advertising and marketing.

There are also associations with socioeconomic status, with 20% of those with annual household income less than $35,000 smoking and 6.2% of those with $100,000 smoking income.

On the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society hosts the Great American Smokeout to encourage Americans to quit smoking or make plans to quit smoking for the day. The American Cancer Society recognizes that quitting smoking is difficult because nicotine addiction is the most difficult thing to recover from.

Nicotine addictions were not always thought of as addictions. Gaskell noted that the 1964 report described cigarette smoking as a “bad habit”.

“And I think that since that time, there has been (enough) evidence to prove that smoking is indeed an addictive problem,” Gaskell said.

The American Cancer Society finds that people who want to quit smoking have success with telephone quitlines, nicotine anonymous meetings, books and other materials, counselors and trainers, and support from friends and family members. These support systems are especially productive when two or more are used.

The American Cancer Society also has a FreshStart program, and people can call 800-227-2345 to learn more about resources.

Gaskell noted how the number of smokers in the US has decreased over the years partly due to campaigns in children’s classrooms. As a pediatrician, Gaskell said parents would tell him they quit smoking because their children learned it had negative effects on health.

“He said, ‘My kids talked to me,'” Gaskell said. “‘My kids told me I was poisoning them.’ So I think it was an important measure to reduce smoking in our society.”

Smoking is also banned in many places such as inside hospitals and schools where it was not before the discovery of its health effects.

Progress made toward raising awareness of nicotine addiction has been hit by a new challenge affecting more young people: e-cigarettes.

Many people refer to e-cigarettes as vape pens, according to the American Cancer Society, and they come in many different shapes and sizes. They include a battery and a heating element that turns the liquid, which usually contains nicotine, into an aerosol of particles to be inhaled. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but nicotine comes from tobacco so they are still classified as tobacco products.

“And I worry about the vaping industry,” Gaskell said. “It seems like the vaping industry has supplanted the smoking industry. It’s the same product. It’s nicotine. In the vaping industry, they’re distributing a product that contains a lot of nicotine that makes people get high.

Vape pen and e-cigarette makers are now primarily owned by “Big Tobacco,” which includes companies such as Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, China National Tobacco Corporation and Japan Tobacco International, according to the annual review. The big tobacco companies control the tobacco industry.

“We don’t have the same data on vaping that we have on smoking…or at least not as much,” Gaskell said. “We don’t have long-term data, but it would stand to reason that you’d have some of the same difficulties. It’s an obstructive agent so you’re going to have coronary artery disease. Your coronary arteries are narrow and spastic and people have heart problems.” is going to have a stroke.

According to BMC Public Health, e-cigarettes were originally created to wean people off cigarette smoking. But younger people are more likely to use vape pens and smoke e-cigarettes than adults. Teens aged 15 to 17 are 16 times more likely to currently use the JUUL pen – an e-cigarette company – than adults.

“I feel like overall it seems like there has been more of a negative impact than a positive one,” said Ashley Klaub, a junior studying chemical engineering. “It certainly appears that a lot of youth are using (e-cigarettes and vape pens) to get into those types of products rather than the other way around.”

Benjamin Melkey, a junior studying electrical engineering at the University of Akron who visited Athens, said he used to work in a factory where people took smoke breaks using cigarettes and realized that cigarettes Most likely to buy. Melkey ​​thought of vapes and e-cigarettes as a way for people to quit smoking but now sees the opposite.

“One of the purposes of e-cigarettes is to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine that people consume,” Melkey ​​said. “But unfortunately, people our age use it to tune out the nicotine they consume.”

According to the Truth Initiative, youth who have used e-cigarettes are seven times more likely to become a smoker in one year, compared to those who have never used e-cigarettes.

The tobacco industry spends huge sums of money every year on advertising to persuade people to buy nicotine products. According to the CDC, in 2019, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $8.2 million on advertising in the US.

For people who want to quit smoking of any kind, it can be challenging when the tobacco industry persuades its audience about their products. Gaskell said resourceful books could be a step in the right direction.

“Personal use(s) are mostly psychological predictions and basically make a list of good things that will happen to you if you quit smoking and bad things that will happen to you if you continue to smoke,” Gaskell said. “And when you’re tempted to smoke, get out your lists and look at them.

Relapses are also a possibility, Gaskell said, and they shouldn’t stop a person from trying again. And if people are willing to change the culture around smoking once again, who knows how much the number of people addicted to smoking and nicotine could decrease.

“We changed the culture,” Gaskell said. “Somehow we changed the culture when I think a lot of people thought the culture couldn’t be changed. But it took a long time.”


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