Picture of students using computers in the library

Sand Shark Smokeout

November 23, 2013

November 21st I found myself walking across the USCB South Campus on a route I do not typically take on Thursdays. As I walked, I noticed these cardboard signs with black permanent marker scrolled across them, they were held up by thin flimsy metal structures rooted into the ground. Intrigued by their simplicity I stopped to read each one. They were labeled with fortunes of shorter lives and the invasive damages brought on by smoking.

I soon found myself standing at a table littered with brochures: “Smart Move: A Stop Smoking Guide”, “Deciding how to quit: Smoker’s guide”, “The Smoke around You”, “Quit smoking and celebrate more birthdays”, “Living Smoke Free… for You and Your Baby”, “Colleges Against Cancer: join the fight ”… As I scanned over these words I heard this woman’s voice ask: “Did you want to make the pledge?” Not knowing what this meant I looked up at her and said, “My friend has been trying to quit, he got stressed and started again.” She graciously grabbed one of everything on her table and handed it to me and somehow I felt relief as she did so. She told me it was the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout Day. This day is recognized every third Thursday of November, done in an effort to raise health awareness and provide inspiration, encouragement, and support to people who make the pledge to quit smoking.

I walked to my car, threw my book bag and laptop into the back and sat in the front opening, sorting, and reading through all the brochures. As I read I recalled my dad making a comment about Matt Damon who quit smoking and was on the front of a magazine which covered his quit. My dad said he was disappointed that Matt had smoked to begin with and for so long. Even though my dad is on a first name basis with Matt Damon-- he actually does not know him, despite this, my pa does know all too well the results of smoking. My dad often says there was a time people simply did not have any knowing of just how deadly cigarettes were- here my dad is speaking of his father, who picked up smoking in the military during the Korean War (in the 1950s). My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was sixteen, I remember after his death I took a journal and put down everything I loved about my Grandpa in the front of the journal, in the latter part of the journal I wrote down all the horrible statistics and facts of smoking as to remind myself never to smoke. On one page I have a picture which says over a can of roach pesticide: “what comes out of this” … “also comes out of this” labeled above a cigarette; another picture has a frog in some fluid preservative and above it says: “what pickled this frog” … “can pickle your lungs” labeled again-- over a cigarette.

“Cigarette smoke is the major cause of emphysema, lung cancer, and asthma. Every cigarette shortens your life by 14 minutes. One in ten moderate smokers will die of lung cancer. One in five heavy smokers will die of lung cancer. Smoking is one of the most common causes of visual impairments and blindness. Smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths. It is linked to other health problems, ranging from colds and allergies to asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, stroke, and heart disease. A nonsmoker breathing the smoke from others, are at risk for the same illnesses as smokers. Secondhand smoke is classified as a ‘Group A’ cancer-causing agent. This means that no level of secondhand smoke is known to be safe.” The facts I wrote in my journal were similar to those that were on the cardboard signs on campus and the information in the brochures. The one major difference in my recordings eight years ago to that of those on the cardboard signs and pamphlets was in the death toll of Americans per year who die by the effects of cigarette smoke-- it was no longer 390,000 per year (2006) and was instead at an increase of 53,000 equaling 443,000 deaths per year.

With all these hefty informings I thoroughly enjoyed the card board sign which read “Blow bubbles NOT smoke!” and proceeded to buy a container of bubbles for my friend to give him with the 'quit smoking' guides I was given at the American Cancer Society table I visited.

I think the mindset in smoking is never focused on the likelihood of all the problems the person is breathing in--layered into each inhalation of smoke. Instead I think smokers are thinking about a way out of the stresses in the present. The stress of work, the stress of the unknown, the stress of life, at times the stress of fitting in or looking cool. Then too I think people experience what I call the “Ocean Swimmer’s Self Doubt” effect. They swim half way out into the ocean, they consider “oh I am so deep in…I will never make it to the finish line…” they then turn around and proceed back to what they know, back to the course they’ve traveled, and the line they left. This is the same distance it would have been to the goal: the other untraveled side of the ocean. Perhaps people read the horrors of cigarette smoke and give it the “oh well/heck with it” solution. This solution is not much of a solution.

“If you smoke a pack a day you could save more than $1,900 a year just by quitting (based on 2011 nationwide average of $5.50 a pack-not including taxes).”

“Effects of quitting after:

  • 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months: Your circulation improves, and your lung function increases.
  • 1 to 9 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decreases; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
  • 1 year: The excess risk of coronary artery disease is half of that of a person who continues to smoke.
  • 5 years: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus (swallowing tube), and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
  • 10 years: Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer in the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps the heart and lungs, to name a few. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.”

HOW DO YOU QUIT?!

  • Knowing: It is not just a matter of will power. Nicotine is highly addictive.
  • Knowing: There are no healthy cigarettes.
  • Knowing: If at first you don’t succeed, it is okay.
  • Have a reason to quit. Remind yourself of that reason.
  • Forming support networks in friends, family, health care professionals, etc.
  • Books and guides (Take advantage of free available materials that provide information and guides to create your own stop-smoking plan. They will help you understand your own smoking patterns, set a target date for quitting, resist urges to smoke, think of alternative activities to smoking, limit weight gain after quitting, ways to relax & reduce stress like physical activity etc., and handle any slips after you quit.)
  • Cold Turkey (easier for smokers who smoke less than 10 cigarettes a day)
  • Gradual Withdraw
  • Nicotine replacement therapy
  • Investigate the unproven methods (you may find your match in acupuncture, hypnosis, vitamin therapy, herbal and homeopathic remedies…)
  • “Think about how tobacco companies have manipulated people. For example, tobacco industry studies done in the 1960s found nicotine was addictive. Yet these studies weren’t made public until 1994. During the 30-plus years the tobacco industry was keeping this secret, 9 million Americans died from illnesses caused by tobacco.”

The American Cancer Society has worked hard to bring awareness, they have made great efforts to free people from the bondages of addiction and illness. They have provided all the facts I have given above; they want you to know, and they want you to want a healthier life and world. Below they have listed sites you can visit to gain the aforementioned helpful guides, knowledge, and power to quitting, and a healthier life:

 

Sand Sharks and all: we want a more breathable world, above and below water, I truly think we can do it. Here’s to us! May we all smokeout! A little inspiration to dare you to move:

Yours Truly: Smokeout Sand Shark,

                                                        Erin Dailey