Despite Fewer Smokers, Nicotine Addiction is Still a Huge Health Issue

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A couple of generations ago, smoking cigarettes was something that seemingly everyone did. In 1965, 42% of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes. Smoking restrictions in public places were mostly seen in locations like hospitals. People were allowed to smoke in grocery stores, shopping malls, doctors’ offices, airplanes, and just about anywhere else they wanted to light up. Today the number of adult smokers has been drastically reduced to only 14 percent. One contributor to this reduction is the many laws and city ordinances that have been passed to restrict where people can smoke cigarettes, including many restaurants and bars. Most people in the U.S. would do a double-take today if they saw someone light a cigarette in locations such as a college hallway, library, or pharmacy. 

Seeing fewer people smoking can make it seem as if there aren’t many left who engage in nicotine consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. Some startling facts about tobacco use in the U.S. include:

  • Nearly 40 million of all adults smoke cigarettes
  • Almost half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke annually
  • 16 million people live with a severe illness caused by smoking 
  • Over four million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. 
  • Approximately 1,600 youth under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day

Advertising Often Targets Children

Every year, the tobacco industry spends billions of dollars on advertising. While much of that money is aimed at smokers, the industry is in the unique position of needing to replace its consumers who die from the use of its own products. In the latter part of the last century, Camel cigarettes famously used a smoking cartoon character named Joe Camel in their ad campaigns. Over time, it was determined that the advertising appealed to children, most of whom could identify Joe Camel as easily as Mickey Mouse. RJ Reynolds, the manufacturer of Camel cigarettes, denied that their advertising targeted youth. However, internal documents showed they were aware that “most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18”. The Joe Camel ad campaign was retired after public outrage and a lawsuit against the tobacco manufacturer.

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

One need not engage in tobacco use to be at risk for health problems related to it. Secondhand smoke is smoke released from lit cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco or exhaled from the person who is smoking these items. Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, respiratory infections, asthma attacks, and other ill health effects. Exposure to secondhand smoke has killed about 2,500,000 since 1964, according to the CDC. As fewer people smoke and the number of public places that allow smoking has lessened, the number of secondhand smoke cases has decreased. Smokeless tobacco choices, such as chewing tobacco, snuff, and dissolvable lozenges all contain health risks, despite the absence of smoke during their usage.

The Myth of Safety in Vaping

In recent years, e-cigarettes have become popularized. Many people believe they are eliminating the risks of smoking by using this alternative form. E-cigarettes are made in a host of shapes and sizes and involve using an electronic device to heat a liquid that creates an aerosol which the user inhales. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, up to 99% in some cases, which means that vaping instead of smoking traditional cigarettes does not eliminate health risks associated with smoking. Some of these products either do not disclose in their packaging that they contain nicotine or falsely claim they do not include it.

The liquid involved in vaping, referred to as “e-juice” or “vape juice,” often comes in various flavors. A great cause for concern is how many of these flavors appeal to children and young adults. Choices like candy, bubblegum, coffee, and breakfast cereals popular with kids make the temptation to try vaping hard to resist for children. The National Academy of Medicine reported in 2018 that there was credible evidence that using e-cigarettes increases the frequency and amount of cigarette smoking in the future. As part of the FDA’s youth tobacco prevention campaign, information about the dangers and myths of vaping is distributed online and directly into schools to help children make more informed nicotine consumption choices.

Getting Help for Nicotine Addiction

There is no safe way to consume nicotine products, and addiction to them is a life-threatening reality. Some people quit cold turkey, stopping all nicotine intake at once, while others do better with the cutting back method. If you are ready to quit the nicotine habit, talk to your doctor first. Then, do an online search for support groups and tips to help quit smoking, or look for a friend or family member who wants to stop with you. 

In past generations, millions of Americans smoked. Despite a reduction in numbers of nicotine use, addiction to it is still a chronic health issue. The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, often lulls a user into believing they have eliminated the risk of nicotine health problems or potential addiction, but the statistics prove otherwise. Addiction is a complicated condition, no matter what substance is involved, and proper treatment is vital. If addiction is affecting your life, we can help. Silver Lining offers a variety of approaches to addressing addiction in our beautiful Huntington Beach location. Our warm and intimate community of small support groups helps you regain control of your life with our flexible day and evening programs. We also treat co-occurring mental health disorders, offering a well-rounded treatment plan to help you become the healthy, happy person you are meant to be. Call us today and get started! (866) 448-4563.