Thursday, November 19, 2015

Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout (American Cancer Society) is held on the third Thursday of November annually.  I don't think that the day gets the recognition or participation it deserves.  The point of the day is to convince smokers that if they can quit for one day, they can see that they can quit permanently.

Oh, if it were only that easy!  Adult smokers I know tell me that quitting tobacco is the hardest thing they have ever done (or tried to do).  Yes, I have known smokers  who just love to smoke and don't ever want to quit.  They also have convinced themselves that none of the really terrible diseases -- heart disease, emphysema, lung cancer, throat cancer, for example -- will happen to them.

I've had young smokers point to their 80-something grandparents who are still happily smoking.  And, it's true -- not all smokers die as a result of their smoking.  But, the reality is that smoking is akin to Russian Roulette.  Maybe smokers will dodge the bullet -- but, more likely, they won't.

I have become increasingly impatient with the smokers who refuse to face the facts.  Not only are they shortening their own lives, they are contributing to the disease and/or discomfort of non-smokers -- particularly like those who are sensitive to secondhand smoke.  I have encountered many of them on the LSU campus through the years -- and I have the sinus infections and lung spots that must be checked annually to show for it.

I especially dislike seeing young women smoking because they are less likely to be able to quit.  We now know that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weight babies.  I've known women who quit during pregnancy but then go back to smoking once the baby is born.  But, Sudden Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more prevalent in households where infants are exposed to secondhand (or thirdhand) smoke.  Children exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes are also much more likely to develop asthma and breathing problems.

So, in the spirit of GASO, I will plead again for smokers to make the effort to stop.  Many resources are available to help -- especially the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.  Most states also offer free quit line help.  The truth is that if you quit for one day, you can quit for good. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome to our tobacco-free campus!

Louisiana State University is now tobacco-free!  What does that mean to you, a member of the LSU community, or a visitor to campus?

No tobacco use is allowed on LSU property.  This includes cigarettes, cigars, water pipes/hookahs, e-cigarettes, and all forms of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff.

Becoming tobacco-free has not been an easy achievement.  Many discussions involving many members of the campus community weighed the health and economic reasons to take this step with concerns about lost productivity or increased student absences from classes as smokers spend more time away from campus to take their smoking breaks.  In the end, the many benefits to having a tobacco-free campus outweighed the potential inconvenience to those addicted to nicotine.

The passage of Louisiana Act 211 also provided the metaphorical shove LSU and other public state campuses needed to deal with secondhand smoke exposure to non-smokers and the extreme amount of tobacco-related litter on campus that costs LSU a minimum of $37,000 a year to clean up.  Act 211 required all public campuses to have a tobacco policy in place by Aug. 1, 2014.

LSU also is joining a national movement to encourage smoking cessation among young people with the lofty goal of creating a tobacco-free generation.

But, make no mistake.  American tobacco companies are joining forces to create new products designed to entice college age and younger kids to take up the tobacco habit and replace the thousands of smokers who die in this state and country every year.  Tobacco companies are currently free to advertise e-cigarettes in channels such as television and youth magazines, avenues that have been denied to cigarettes since the 1960s.  The FDA finally has taken up consideration of regulating e-cigarettes, just as the agency regulates other tobacco products.

Before you use any tobacco product -- especially the newer devices such as hookahs and e-cigarettes -- take the time to educate yourself with the facts about these products and not fall for psychologically well-crafted messages from tobacco companies. The bottom line -- no tobacco product is safe.

If you are a current tobacco user, please take a minute to consider how tobacco is influencing your life and possibly the lives of those around you.  Nicotine addiction is powerful.  Hardly anyone who tried that first cigarette intended to become addicted.

Here is the call to action.  If you don't current use tobacco products, don't start.  Step up and gently let anyone you see using tobacco products on campus know that we now have a campus tobacco-free policy.  If you do use tobacco products, work out in advance your strategy for getting through the day without smoking on campus.  If you want to quit, support is available from the Student Health Center or from 1-800-QUITNOW.  When you need facts or information or want to ask a question, visit this website: www.lsu.edu/smokingwords or come back to this blog and leave comments.

Thank you for not smoking on the LSU campus!