Giving up smoking or the use of other tobacco products isn’t easy.
But those who have quit say it’s worth it and one of the best choices they could have made.
Former Seymour resident Eric Wilder, 26, said that less than a week after he stopped smoking cigarettes he has noticed a major difference in how he feels.
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By switching to vaping or the use of electronic cigarettes after seven years of smoking up to a pack a day, Wilder, who now lives in Scottsburg, said he is taking steps in the right direction.
“The three big things I’ve noticed are a significant decrease in the amount of flareups caused by my gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is severe heartburn. My blood pressure levels have decreased to around normal levels, and I’m having less mood swings,” he said.
To encourage and support people to kick the habit, the Jackson County Health Department and the Smoke-Free Seymour Coalition are issuing a challenge to smokers and tobacco users to give it up for one day.
By participating in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout today, smokers can take the first step toward a life without the expense and health hazards of smoking and tobacco use, said Dr. Kenneth Bobb, Jackson County health officer.
“By quitting, even for one day, a smoker will be taking an important step toward a healthier life, one that can lead to reducing their cancer risk and the cause of harm to others in their family, workplace and community,” Bobb said.
The positive effects of quitting smoking are almost instantaneous, he said.
“When tobacco is not used, within 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure of the smoker will drop; and within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide levels will drop to normal,” he said. “Just one day can make a real difference in your health and provide you with the strength and resolve to quit.”
Bobb also is leading the efforts of the local smoke-free coalition. That group plans to go before the Seymour City Council next year to request city officials make additions to and strengthen the existing nonsmoking ordinance. The coalition wants the city to ban smoking in all bars and clubs, both private and public. Currently, private clubs are exempt from the law.
It also wants to see the ordinance increase the distance where smoking is permitted near a public entrance from 10 feet to 25 feet; make smoking illegal at public gatherings of 50 or more people; and to include all electronic forms of smoking, such as e-cigarettes and vape machines, in the ordinance.
Some residents, including Kathryn Jarvis, don’t agree with the smoking ban.
“There are too many laws already where government has no business,” she said.
Although she doesn’t smoke now, there was a time when she did.
“I do not like to be around smokers but feel it is up to the homeowner, landlord and shopkeepers to decide if they want to allow smoking on their properties, not the government,” she said.
Bobb said the rights of nonsmokers should trump those of smokers.
“This issue is not about your right to smoke, but about the right of those who don’t, being able to live in a smoke-free environment,” said Bobb, a former smoker. “These new policies will benefit those who do not choose to smoke and provide yet another reason for those who do to quit.”
According to national smoking statistics, around 42 million Americans smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.
In Jackson County, the rate of smoking and tobacco use continues to drop, but at 26.3 percent it remains higher than the state average.
“That means there is 73.7 percent of the population in Jackson County who have chosen not to smoke or use tobacco products but who are affected by those who do by secondhand smoke exposure and the rising cost of medical care for those who do,” Bobb said.
There are many health reasons why people should not smoke, he said.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, of which more than 70 are known to cause, initiate or promote cancer. Secondhand smoke contains nearly the same number of carcinogens and also has been linked to heart attacks, coronary disease, strokes and lung cancer in adults.
Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are 23 percent more likely to have stillbirths and 13 percent more likely to give birth to an infant with congenital malformations, according to the CDC. And in children, it has been linked to a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections and respiratory problems, such as asthma.
Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator and educator for the health department, said that as a former smoker she understands just how hard it is to quit. She still craves the rush of nicotine, she said.
“It’s still a struggle for me, but I don’t want to go back there,” she said. “When I had my stroke, the very first question I remember was, ‘Do you or have you ever smoked?’”
Now, Montgomery helps others kick the habit through the health department’s tobacco cessation program, which provides education, support and nicotine replacement patches for participants.
Another local resource available for smokers who want to quit is the Better Breathers Support Group at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
There also are many credible Internet sites that provide online coaches, tips and advice for quitting, including the American Cancer Society and the Indiana State Department of Health.
“It’s a race for your health, and it starts today,” Bobb said. “Today’s the day that quitters win.”
Smoking cessation class
To sign up for Jackson County Health Department’s next six-week smoking cessation class, call Lin Montgomery at 812-522-6474 or email her at email@example.com.
Those participating will receive a free four-week supply of nicotine replacement patches.
Better Breathers Support Group
Meets every Thursday at 1 p.m. in Classroom 1 at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
Coordinated by Schneck’s Respiratory and Sleep Services Department, this is a weekly support group for patients and their family members who have asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer or other respiratory problems. Caregivers also are encouraged to attend.
For information, call 812-522-0401.