A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Erica Smith: Kick It, Kentucky! encourages tobacco users to quit for good; health benefits follow

Mothers across continents, species and centuries have all shared one thing in common: an innate desire to protect their children. As a mother-to-be and an advocate for cancer patients across the Commonwealth, I can say with certainty that quitting tobacco is one of the most important things you can do to protect your child and improve your own health.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has designated Sept. 25 through Sept. 29, 2017 as “Kick It, Kentucky” Week — an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of tobacco cessation and the tools and resources available to help you succeed.
Tragically, Kentucky has the highest smoking rates in the nation and the largest number of people diagnosed with cancer. This year alone in Kentucky, 26,220 people will be diagnosed with cancer, and 10,400 will die from the disease. More than a quarter of all Kentuckians smoke, and almost a quarter of women in our state, nearly twice the national average, use tobacco while pregnant.


When a pregnant woman uses tobacco, her baby is exposed to nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other toxins. Ingesting these chemicals makes her baby more vulnerable to miscarriage, premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other complications.
Smoking is now linked to at least 15 types of cancers, including lung, liver and colorectal cancers. People who smoke today have an even higher risk of lung cancer than those who smoked 50 years ago, because cigarettes have become more deadly.
When you stop using tobacco, the benefits begin almost immediately. Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate will become more stable. After 12 hours, your carbon monoxide levels normalize, and within weeks, overall lung function improves.
Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, but for tobacco users in Kentucky, there has never been a better time to quit. Earlier this summer, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network advocated for legislation that ensures patients can easily access the treatments they need to kick the habit for good.
Kentucky’s new law requires commercial health plans and Medicaid to provide comprehensive, barrier-free coverage to all FDA-approved tobacco cessation treatments, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and counseling.
This new law is a major step forward in creating an environment that supports people who want to quit but there is still more work to be done. Increasing the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack could help save the lives of 22,200 Kentuckians, keep 34,900 kids from using tobacco and help an estimated 44,100 people quit smoking for good.


If you want to quit or if you want to support someone else who’s trying to quit, there are a wealth of resources available for you. Learning more is as simple as dialing 1-800-QuitNow. 
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States so, take some time this week to consider the benefits of quitting tobacco. Quit for your children. Quit for your family members and friends. Quit for your community. And last, but certainly not least, quit for yourself.
For more information on tobacco cessation resources, please visit QuitNowKentucky.org or call 1-800-QuitNow today.

Erica Palmer Smith is Kentucky government relations director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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