Efforts to help smokers quit takes on greater emphasis in Butler County

The American Cancer Society sponsors its annual Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 15. The event encourages tobacco users to stop smoking and using other forms of tobacco for at least one day, with hopes it will continue longer.
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The American Cancer Society sponsors its annual Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 15. The event encourages tobacco users to stop smoking and using other forms of tobacco for at least one day, with hopes it will continue longer.

Thursday is the 43rd annual Great American Smokeout, the day each year the American Cancer Society encourages tobacco users to stop smoking and using other forms of tobacco for at least one day, with hopes it will continue longer.

Quitting smoking is especially a concern in Butler County, which has experienced some of Ohio’s highest infant mortality rates, with smoking by mothers during and after their pregnancies one death factor that is being targeted locally.

It’s a big enough concern that the non-profit Envision Partnerships operates a program called Baby & Me Tobacco Free that helps women who are pregnant or new mothers quit tobacco products. Those who succeed can receive up to $350 in vouchers for diapers from Walmart.

“Smoking causes one out of every five deaths in the U.S., which means it kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined,” said Alexandra Houser-Vukoder, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society in Ohio. “And if you still smoke after hearing that, it’s a testament to how addictive it really is.”

The society notes that cigarette smoking was sliced more than in half from 1965, when 42 percent of adults smoked, to 2016, when that rate was about 15.5 percent.

Meanwhile, another front has appeared on the battle against tobacco use, Houser-Vukoder said: vaping and e-cigarette use by children, a trend that the Food and Drug Administration believes increased 75 percent among youth in the past year, particularly because of child-friendly non-tobacco flavors. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in September called teen use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic of addiction.”

“We’re really pushing the FDA to stop sales of flavored tobacco products to children,” Houser-Vukoder said. “The FDA is recognizing that there’s a critical role these flavors — pumpkin spice, chocolate mint, and Hawaiian Punch — are playing a role in the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes. It’s a gateway thing.”

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Mary Beth Haubner is a prevention specialist at Envision Partnerships, which co-facilitates the Baby & Me program locally. Baby & Me operates in 21 states.

“The main thing that we teach with the program is that with smoking, the umbilical cord with the pregnant mom is she’s not being able to give her baby 100 percent of the nutrients and oxygen that are given through the umbilical cord, when you’re smoking,” Haubner said.

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“There’s normal blood flow to the baby, but when you’re smoking, nicotine shrinks the veins, reduces blood flow, oxygen and blood supply,” she said. “That’s something really bad.”

That’s one of the top factors believe contribute to local infant mortality, along with the need for safe-sleep methods and need for prenatal care that includes progesterone shots for those who need them because of hormone deficiencies, she said. Smoking mothers also put the baby at a disadvantage with its development after the birth because of second-hand smoke.

Pregnant women are referred to the Baby & Me program by the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and other agencies. Those who go through the program and regularly are tobacco-free — there are tests — can earn up to 14 $25 diaper vouchers. If someone in their household goes through the program, that person can earn another $350 in vouchers.

“While cigarette smoking rates have dropped, about 37.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes,” according to the society. “About half of all Americans who keep smoking will die because of their smoking. Each year more than 480,000 people in the United States die from illnesses caused by smoking. This means each year smoking causes about 1 out of 5 deaths” in the country.

Also, Houser-Vukoder said: “Smoking not only causes cancer, but it damages nearly every organ in the body.”

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The cancer society provides help for those wanting to quit at http://www.cancer.org/smokeout.

Cigarette smoking, combined with cigar- and pipe smoking, accounts for 29 percent of all cancer deaths and is the leading cause of cancer deaths, the cancer society has said. Lung cancer is the top cause of cancer death for both men and women. Other cancers caused by smoking are cancers of the voice box, mouth, sinuses, throat, swallowing tube and bladder.

Smoking also has been linked to cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary, colon/rectum, kidney, stomach and some leukemia forms.

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SMOKING RATES IN AREA COUNTIES

Ohio’s adult smoking rate was 21 percent in 2016. Here were the rates in area counties:

  • Butler: 19.5 percent
  • Champaign: 19.6 percent
  • Clark: 19.9 percent
  • Clermont: 18.6 percent
  • Darke: 18.8 percent
  • Greene: 18.3 percent
  • Hamilton: 19.6 percent
  • Miami: 18.9 percent
  • Montgomery: 20.6 percent
  • Preble: 19.4 percent
  • Warren: 16.1 percent

Source: Ohio Department of Health

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