Health Consequences of Smoking report

Report describes dangers of youth smoking

2014-02-02T23:49:00Z 2014-02-03T15:32:15Z Report describes dangers of youth smokingVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

A new report on smoking estimates 151,000 Indiana youths will become smokers and die prematurely, a figure that translates into 9.5 percent of Hoosiers 17 and younger.

The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, released by the Office of the Surgeon General last week, describes the physical and financial toll of smoking.

Local and state agencies are working to lower Indiana smoking rates.

Community HealthNet in Gary is the new lead agency for the Lake County Minority Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

“We will continue to work to support policies that protect our community members from the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Janet Seabrook, CEO of Community HealthNet. “This report is a call to action that we must act now to prevent our children from becoming addicted to tobacco.”

The report shows what Indiana can expect if it does not act now to reduce its smoking rates and prevent children from becoming addicted to tobacco, said State Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess.

“For every smoker in our state that dies, two more Hoosiers under the age of 26 will start smoking," he said.

Stopping kids from taking their first drag is key, said Linda Gatto, a certified family nurse practitioner, who is a certified tobacco cessation treatment specialist and the lung cancer screening coordinator at Franciscan Medical Specialists in Munster.

Gatto works daily with patients dealing with the effects of smoking, such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Less than 20 percent of people who try to quit are successful, she said.

"It's very addictive," she said. "And the environment we live in, it's always available, always there. Going cold turkey is almost impossible, although some people can do it. There's no magic pill."

Gatto tries to find her patients' motivation to quit, whether it's for their own health, to save money or for their family's health.

Smoking and secondhand smoke has been linked to 13 cancers, with liver and colorectal cancer new in the latest report.

The report states exposure to secondhand smoke is a cause of stroke. Nonsmokers exposed to smoke have a 20 to 30 percent increased risk for stroke, according to the report.

It puts the financial cost of smoking at more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and economic loss.

On the heels of the surgeon general's report, the American Lung Association issued its State of Tobacco Control 2014 report.

It gave Indiana failing grades in cessation coverage and tobacco prevention and control program funding. It gave the state a D for its cigarette tax and a C for smoke-free air.

“Despite great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S.,” said Lindsay Grace, manager of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Indiana. 

The association's annual report tracks progress on tobacco-control policies at the state and federal levels.

To improve the state's grades in 2014, Indiana must prioritize high and equitable taxes on all tobacco products and higher funding for Indiana's tobacco prevention program, the report states.

“Leaders in Indianapolis must step up to provide smokers with the support they need to quit and adequately fund prevention programs that help keep our kids off tobacco,” Grace said.

Indiana has a smoking rate of 24 percent, which is higher than the national average of 19.6 percent, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Almost 30 percent of Hoosier adults between ages 18 and 30 are smokers, according to the report.

"Tobacco use kills more than 9,700 Hoosiers each year and costs the state over $2 billion in health care costs annually, including more than $487 million in Medicaid costs," the state department reported.

Miranda Spitznagle, director of Tobacco Prevention and Cessation at the department, said the report calls on public health leaders to use all of their tools to lower tobacco use rates.

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