Smoking: Preventable Death

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Running head: SMOKING: PREVENTABLE DEATH Smoking: Preventable Death It is 2008, my family is gathered in the hospital room listening to a doctor explain how cigarette smoking is the reason for us being here. This is a speech we are hearing for the third time. I had already watched to of my other family members die from disease caused by smoking. This two names were added to the list of hundreds of thousands of U. S. citizens that die from cigarette smoking every year. The fear sets in and I am terrified of what might happen thinking about how precious life is. I find myself asking the questions, why are we not preventing such a preventable death? And how many will die before we do something about it? Even though tobacco companies state that it is not addictive or life threatening, cigarette smoking is highly addictive and kills nearly half of its users, over five million people a year making it the leading cause of preventable death; therefore, those who have not used cigarettes should never start and those who do need to quit to avoid becoming a statistic. In order to understand how it has come to this point where so many lives are being lost it is important to know where it all began. Ravenholt (1990) provides a history lesson on the origins of tobacco use in America. It all began with the Native Americans who would use it as a remedy for illnesses, aches and pains. Tobacco use increased in the United States during the Civil War. Immediately following the Civil War tobacco factories began to sprout up and cigarette use entered a new era shortly after with the perfection of a cigarette rolling machine. Over the next several year’s production of cigarettes increased to over a billion cigarettes a year by 1890. With more Americans consuming tobacco and cigarettes medical practitioners noticed an increase in disease and illness in its users. Awareness of the possible dangers arose with the clinical observation of prominent individuals exhibiting evidence that they had succumbed to diseases related to smoking. Over one hundred years later the tobacco industry is thriving selling billions of cigarettes every year. This growth has caused nicotine to become the most addictive drug in the U. S. and the leading cause of preventable death, yet tobacco companies deny that their product is addictive or life threatening. Tobacco companies have reached great success and continue this path despite the awareness of the many possible dangers of cigarette use. One way they continue this success is through strategic marketing, targeting a younger population to obtain a possible long-term customer. Tobacco companies have used everything from cowboys to cartoon characters to appeal to their target customers. After these marketing strategies were publicly criticized because they were believed to be targeting youth, tobacco agencies slowly changed their approach. However, these changes applied to the strategy and not the target audience. The American Journal of Public Health (Ellis and Northridge, 2002) states: Today’s tobacco advertising has its own distinct flavor. Gone are the cartoon characters that proved wildly successful in marketing tobacco to youths. In their place are more confusing and sophisticated campaigns, ostensibly designed to reduce the level of direct marketing to adolescents. They nonetheless retain the cunning ability to attract young consumers through deliberate manipulation of antismoking messages. Tobacco companies still have the ability to appeal to adolescent consumers continuing a cycle of gaining customers that they are able to retain many years with such an addictive product. Ellis and Northridge (2002) go on to state, “Youths throughout the world are subjected to a barrage of images, and many designed specifically to encourage impulse purchasing of tobacco products without attention to legally required health warnings”. So, tobacco companies defend that nicotine is not addictive even though it has been proven through years of research and medical study to cause addictive effects on the brain and changes in our physiology. For those who still do not know what nicotine is the American Heart Association (2010) website provides a simple description of nicotine where it states: Nicotine is an addictive drug. It causes changes in the brain that make people want to use it more and more. In addition, addictive drugs cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The good feelings that result when an addictive drug is present — and the bad feelings when it’s absent — make breaking any addiction very difficult. Nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest addictions to break. Many Americans attempt to quit smoking daily with no success. The addiction of nicotine continues to control its users and keep them coming back for more. The American Heart Association (2010) also compares it to other drugs, “Pharmacological and behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine”. Nicotine’s addictive qualities ensure that users continue to use tobacco and cigarettes but are not the only reason consumers cannot avoid the temptation of “lighting up”. The unwanted side effects are the other reason that an individual that may want to quit would refrain from following through. American Heart (2010) shows that symptoms of nicotine withdrawal which includes irritability, impatience, hostility, anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, decreased heart rate, increased appetite, and weight gain. If any American would experience these symptoms when quitting something it would make it very difficult to quit. Nicotine’s effect on the body is not the only reason most cannot resist the urge; the psychological effects also keep many from being able to quit successfully. The eHealthMD provides details on why smoking has such powerful psychological effects stating that: The situations and activities associated with smoking, together with the smoker’s mood and psychological state at the time, also become linked with its rewards and with the relief of withdrawal. They come to serve as signals or triggers for the urge or craving for nicotine’s effects (for example, after meals, with coffee or alcohol, when meeting people, working, talking on the phone, and when anxious, angry, celebrating, or having a well-earned break, and so on). The website (eHealthMD, 2010) also shares that smoking is a learning process and in which discovering how to get the most out of the drug and its effects causes conditioning in the user. This conditioning causes users to have several triggers causing the urge to smoke. These triggers can be nearly impossible to avoid making the possibility of quitting even more difficult. The eHealthMD website states that, “Only 2. 5 percent of smokers successfully quit each year”. Most smokers are only successful in quitting when it has finally taken their life. Many people believe that smoking does not shorten their life span by many years. These individuals believe that they will die near the same age from some other illness or disease. Smokers will on average die 10 to 15 years sooner than they would have from another illness or disease (eHealthMD, 2010). Now that you can see how tobacco companies remain one of the biggest businesses in the world, what can we do to change this fact? It is imperative that we increase the percentage of smokers successfully quitting each year. To do this you can find many resources online that can lead you to help and assistance with this goal. Websites like www. smokefree. gov provide information and options to get you started. Now knowing that tobacco and cigarettes are addictive, many still argue that it is not life threatening. This is believed even though Over 443,000 people die in the U. S. each year; the chart below found on the Center for Disease Control site (2009) provides details of how many deaths occurred due to the various diseases smoking can cause. [pic] More than 128,000 deaths are attributed to lung cancer caused by smoking. In fact, smoking causes more than 80 percent of lung cancer in the United States. Above The Influence is a website is a great resource dedicated to educate and make individuals aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking and overcoming other addictions. Above The Influence (2009) website states that: Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Between 1964 and 2004, cigarette smoking caused an estimated 12 million deaths, including 4. 1 million deaths from cancer, and 5. 5 million deaths from cardiovascular diseases. You may question what about tobacco makes it so life threatening. Up to 90% of lung cancer is attributed to smoking and it greatly increases the chances of heart attack or stroke (Simon and Zieve, 2009). We also learn in the Smoking (2009) report that women who have survived breast cancer have a 120 percent chance of getting it again if they smoke cigarettes. These harmful effects and diseases are caused by the many poisins that are present in tobacco and its smoke. Tobacco smoking contains 69 chemicals that can cause cancer and over 4000 chemicals in the smoke that users inhale. The following illustration found on the New York Smoke Free (2010) website illustrates some of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. [pic] It is hard to comprehend how any of us would smoke cigarettes knowing that these chemicals are entering our bodies. Smoking affects our cardiovascular system, bones and joints. It increases the risk of birth defects, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid disease, and age-related disorders. The list could go on and on discussing the risks that smoking causes but I am still researching to find a benefit, it may take awhile. I would often attempt to encourage individuals around me to stop smoking. I now see that quitting is very important but I must also do everything I can to prevent those who do not smoke from ever starting. I often wonder how many of my friends and family would still be here if they had never held a cigarette to their lips. You have heard throughout this paper that it is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It was on that day in 2008, my family standing over that hospital bed staring in unbelief at a person who is virtually unrecognizable now with no hair and weighing less than 100 pounds. The many times I heard my parents, mentors, and teachers tell me to never smoke a cigarette ran through my mind. I was thankful that I listened, but unfortunately my aunt did not. The lung cancer that is slowly taking her life also took the life of two of my uncle’s years before. She passes away a couple days later, adding her to the list of family members and thousands of others lost to the addiction of smoking cigarettes. I vowed that day to do whatever I could to prevent another family member falling victim to this preventable death. This paper is being written for anyone who feels the pressure or influence to try smoking, but more importantly my 23 year old brother and others like him who have fallen victim to the addiction and smoke a cigarette several times a day. It is time for change…it is time to quit. References Above The Influence. (2010). Tobacco Facts. Retrieved June 15th, 2010 from https://www. abovetheinfluence. com American Heart Association. (2010). Nicotine Addiction. Retrieved July 17th, 2010 from https://www. americanheart. org Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Tables, Charts, and Graphs. Retrieved from https://www. cdc. gov EHealthMD. (2010). What is a Smoking Addiction?. Retrieved July 16th, 2010 from https://www. ehealthmd. com Ellis, J. (2002) Tobacco and the media. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 895. Retrieved July 17th, 2010 from https://www. ajph. aphapublications. org New York State Smokers’ Quitline. (2010). What is in a Cigarette?. Retrieved from https://www. nysmokefree. com Ravenholt, R. (1990). Tobacco’s Global Death March. Population and Development Review, 16(2), 213-240. Retrieved from EconLit with Full Text database Simon, H. , & Zieve, D. (2009). SMOKING. Smoking, 1. Retrieved June 14th, 2010 from MasterFILE Premier database.

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