Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds such as carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia that reach your lungs every time you inhale. And it is not just cigarrete smokers who are exposed to these carcinogens. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. Smokeless tobacco is especially associated with higher risk of oral cancer, particularly located in the gums or cheek.
Regardless of what kind of tobacco you use, they all contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain pathways that control reward and pleasure. This pleasurable feeling that tobacco users experience after using reinforces the addiction.
However, tobacco users can successfully quit tobacco. There are individual, group, or telephone counseling available that use behavioral based therapies such as problem solving and help people understand their addiction. Pharmacotherapy is also very important. Over-the-counter (e.g., nicotine patch, gum, lozenge) Prescription (e.g., nicotine inhaler, nasal spray) Prescription non-nicotine medications, such as bupropion SR (Zyban®) 2 and varenicline tartrate (Chantix®) Research has shown that combination of medication and counseling is more effective for smoking cessation than either medication or counseling alone. We treat tobacco use as a chronic disease and there are not quick fixes.
Prevention is really the key. Talking to your child about tobacco use and modeling good behavior is very important. Everyday more than 600,000 middleschoolers smoke cigarettes so be clear that you do not approve of tobacco use. Hookah is also a growing trend among college age students and youth need to realize that hookahs are not a safe alternative to smoking. You get exposed to second hand smoke and high levels of nicotine when using a hookah. It maybe the “sexy” past time right now, but it can also prime you for a nicotine addiction.
There is a statewide initiative promoting tobacco free parks and playgrounds called Young Lungs At Play (YLAP). The YLAP initiative promotes protecting children from tobacco smoke pollution, clean park environments and especially modeling good behavior for children. No one wants to see their child addicted to nicotine and very few people addicted to nicotine want to be either.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying” Quitting tobacco is easy, I have done it a thousand times.” We believe in the practice leads to higher success model. So if you did not quit the first time, cut yourself a break and realize that you probably learned something about yourself and your addiction that will help you be successful.
Mary McNelis Levasseur, Manager of Communtiy Health and Wellness for Lancaster General Health. Mary has been in the health care field for over twenty years and was trained at Univercity of Medicine and Denistry New Jersey (UMDNJ) tobacco dependence treatment program.
Smoking Cessation Programs at Lancaster General Health
LG Health 544-4636
Pennsylvania’s Free Quitline 1-877-724-1090