Tobacco Talk

Gretchen Saunders, RN, BSN, Nurse Navigator, Tri-Cities Cancer Center

Let’s talk tobacco. As a nurse navigator who specializes in lung cancer, I see the negative effects of tobacco use on a daily basis, particularly the damage cigarette smoking causes. The simple message for everyone is, don’t ever try tobacco products and if you are a tobacco user, the sooner you quit the better chance you have of avoiding a cancer diagnosis.

Consider the facts: According to the Centers for Disease Control:

In 2014, nearly 25 of every 100 high school students (24.6%) and nearly 8 of every 100 middle school students (7.7%) used some type of tobacco product. In 2013, nearly half (46.0%) of high school students and nearly 18 of every 100 middle school students (17.7%) said they had tried a tobacco product. 90% of all people start using tobacco in their teens.

These are staggering statistics. Especially when you consider these same individuals are more likely to continue to use tobacco products into adulthood. Did you know that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death among men and women?

Active kids, those who turn out for sports, often view smokeless tobacco differently than cigarettes. The bottom line is, neither are safe.

A word for pregnant mothers: I strongly urge you to avoid tobacco use. Smoking by pregnant mothers can result in an increased death rate, premature birth, ear infections, asthma and respiratory infections for your little one.

Start talking with your children as soon as you can about making healthy choices. Of course, you need to temper the language in a way that is age appropriate. My husband and I began talking with our kids about how they can affect their own health with diet and exercise as soon as they were able to understand. It was an evolving conversation as they aged. When they were very young we would say things like, “Eww gross!” or “That’s yucky!” in reference to cigarette use.

I happen to teach a tobacco cessation class at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center on a monthly basis. The classes are free of charge. I often hear from participants that they wish they never started. It’s expensive from a health and lifestyle perspective. There are increased medical bills, dental issues, missed work due to health issues, social stigma and people often feel ashamed.

Moms, if you, your spouse or even your children are tobacco users who need help kicking the habit, call 737-3427 to sign up for our next Tobacco Cessation class. I promise you it will be one of the best decisions you or your loved ones will ever make!

Gretchen Saunders is a Nurse Navigator at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and the proud mother of Camille (23), Drew (20) and Cecily (17).

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