The following editorial first appeared in the North Platte Telegraph.
No Limits is the name of a program that has a goal to fight big tobacco in Nebraska. It is a youth led organization, and clearly, the emphasis is getting young Nebraskans prepared to resist the temptation of smoking.
Big tobacco is developing new marketing methods to attract new customers, and No Limits organized a Fall Summit, teaching members how to recognize these tactics. The summit was held last week in Cozad and assisted 150 middle and high school students by providing information about the tobacco industry and tools engaged in anti-tobacco activism in their home communities.
Amanda Mortensen, project coordinator for No Limits, said, “They’ve [the participants at the summit] heard about the health effects of tobacco use, but they might not know what the tobacco industry has done to hide that information and mislead the public. We want youth to feel empowered and know that they can change the influence Big Tobacco has on Nebraska.”
Given the impact of health care in this county, these efforts to stop smoking before it starts are invaluable.
According to the American Lunch Association the health dangers are staggering:
- Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.
- About 8.6 million people in the U.S. have at least one serious illness caused by smoking. That means that for every person who dies of smoking-related disease, there are 20 more people who suffer from at least one serious illness associated with smoking.
- Among current smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 73 percent of smoking-related conditions. Even among smokers who have quit chronic lung disease accounts for 50 percent of smoking-related conditions.
- The list of diseases caused by smoking includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema), coronary heart disease, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataract, pneumonia, periodontitis, and bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, throat, cervical, kidney, stomach, and pancreatic cancers.
Smoking is also a major factor in a variety of other conditions and disorders, including slowed healing of wounds, infertility and peptic ulcer disease.
Here are some Nebraska facts:
- In 2009, 18.4 percent of Nebraska high school students smoked. That’s down from 39.2 percent in 1997.
- 90 percent of all adult smokers began smoking in their teens or earlier.
- Almost one out of every five high school girls in America is a smoker.
- Each day, about 1,000 people under 18 years of age become regular smokers.
- Big Tobacco spends an estimated $72.1 million annually on marketing in Nebraska.
Health care starts with wellness and No Limits is working to stop an insidious health nightmare before it begins.
We should all be applauding the effort and helping wherever we can.