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Dr. Theodore Miller: Commit to Quit — smoking has consequences yet KY ranks #1 in adults who smoke

Kentuckians are proud when their basketball teams reach the top of national polls. But leading the country in other rankings does not instill a lot of pride in people of the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly where we rank in the number of adults who smoke.

We all know smoking has consequences – it’s the leading cause of cancer in the United States. Tobacco use is connected not just to lung cancer, but also to cancers of the oral cavity, voice box, pancreas and uterus, among others.


Smoking contributes to other health problems, including heart disease, stroke, emphysema and bronchitis. Still, nearly 30 percent of adults and 14 percent of teens in the Commonwealth self-report to be smokers. The smoking rates in Northern Kentucky are a little better than the state average – 23 percent in Boone County, 25 percent in Campbell County and 26 percent in Kenton County.

Many smokers want to quit, up to seven in 10 according to some studies. Those people can increase their odds of success by working with their physician. A 2007 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that smokers who tried to quit were four times more than four times more successful when they worked with their physician. Smokers who tried to quit on their own had a 7 percent success rate versus a 30 percent success rate for those who worked with their physician.

With that in mind, the Kentucky Medical Association, Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and the Northern Kentucky Medical Society have embarked on a campaign to encourage patients to work with their doctors as they commit to quit smoking. As physicians, we know the benefits smokers who quit will see immediately.

Smokers can cut their risk of lung cancer by 30 to 50 percent after 10 years. Their risk of oral or esophageal cancer drops by half within five years after quitting. Within one to two years after quitting, smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke drops and they see a reduction in the respiratory symptoms associated with smoking, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

But we also know it’s not easy, even for those people who have a strong desire to quit. As in a hard-fought basketball game, it takes a good coach to figure out the best strategy for success. Physicians play that coach’s role in helping patients kick the habit. While some smokers might be able to quit “cold turkey,” without interventions, others may need counseling, nicotine patches or other medication to kick the habit. Physicians know their patients best and can help smokers make the best decision for them. They can prescribe any needed medication and provide the support patients need to put smoking on pause – for good.

If you’re ready to quit smoking, visit www.committoquitky.com and talk with your physician. Let’s move Kentucky to the top of the health rankings and out of the losers’ bracket for number of smokers.

Dr Miller

Theodore H. Miller, MD, PhD, an Edgewood physician, is president of the Kentucky Medical Association and a member of the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care Board of Directors.

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