Though smoking rates have dropped since the first Great American Smokeout in 1976, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Colorado. It kills more than 4,300 Colorado smokers each year and costs the state billions of dollars in healthcare and lost productivity.
“The Great American Smokeout gives Colorado smokers a chance to join millions of Americans on Nov. 21 as they break free from the toxic effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke,” said Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health. “Smokers can use this day and the many resources available to make a plan to quit, quit for the day, or end their tobacco use forever.”
Carlstrom added, “This year, we welcome e-cigarette and vape users to join the day and end their dependence on these products. The nicotine in these devices is derived from tobacco, and it is the nicotine that leads to the addiction.”
In recent years, the vaping phenomenon has swept the nation, especially among youth. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 27 percent of Colorado teens report vaping, which is the highest vaping rate in the nation. Chaffee County youth vaping rates are even higher at 44 percent.
This past summer, a mystery lung illness associated with vape products was discovered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now named the illness as EVALI (e-cigarettes and vaping product use associated lung injury). As of Nov. 13, there were 2,172 cases and 42 deaths from EVALI in 49 U.S. states. Currently, the CDC recommends refraining from all e-cigarette and vape products until the cause of EVALI is determined.
Quitting nicotine isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Experts say nicotine is as addictive as heroin. It often takes most nicotine users several attempts to quit successfully, but those who set a quit date and use a combination of medication and counseling are more likely to quit for good.
The benefits of quitting tobacco are real and immediate. Within 20 minutes after quitting, a smoker’s heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide levels in his or her blood decrease. And within two weeks after quitting, a smoker’s lung and circulation functions will improve. Long term, an ex-smoker can expect to live longer and be less likely to develop cancer and heart disease.
For an e-cig/vape user who quits, lung capacity will increase as inflammation caused by vaping decreases and the air can flow much better. Getting more oxygen will also lead to higher energy levels and better performance during physical activities. After 24 hours, the risk for heart attack or stroke begins to decrease along with an increase in the sense of smell and taste. Within the first one to nine months after quitting vaping, the lung’s capacity to clear out mucus and fight off infections significantly increases.
There are resources for those who are ready to quit. Smokers and their families can learn more about tobacco at www.tobaccofreeco.org. Those who are prepared to quit can call the Colorado QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT NOW. The QuitLine offers free, personalized, confidential telephone and web-based support for smokers and their families. For those who want a web-based only service, they can go to www.coquitline.org and register online for support.
Anyone under the age of 18 is not eligible to receive or use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRTs) such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges. However, youth-specific resources are available, including:
Or text “DITCHJUUL” to 88709
Locally, Chaffee County Public Health works to prevent and control tobacco use. To talk with a tobacco treatment specialist, call 719-530-2572.