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The Great American Smokeout 2020

November 19th 2020 is the The Great American Smoke Out! An annual event held on the third Thursday of every November to encourage smokers to try and quit the habit for the last time! If you or a loved one are considering quitting, call the Rhode Island Nicotine Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW – Get up to five free counseling sessions by phone and a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist will coach you to quit smoking, quit vaping, manage nicotine cravings, and more strategies!

In 2014, the Surgeon General released a report on the health consequences of smoking and found that although smoking rates have decreased over the past 50 years, the risk of dying from cigarettes has somehow increased. The Surgeon General report discovered that today’s cigarette smoker smokes fewer cigarettes but has a much higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than smokers in 1964. 

Despite tobacco companies trying to conceal the truth, most Americans are now aware of the health risks of tobacco products. Big Tobacco companies like Altria and Phillip Morris International know that the perception of smoking is quickly changing. In fact, smoking has declined from 20.9% in 2005 to only 13.7% in 2018. As smoking rates decrease, executives at companies such as Altria have to find new ways to adapt and keep people addicted. Now, Big Tobacco focuses on appealing to a younger audience and making cigarettes more addictive to keep selling product.

How do Big Tobacco Companies make cigarettes more addictive?

  • Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies control amount of nicotine to sustain addition.
  • Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.
  • Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.

Smoking rates have continued to decrease among youths, but over the past few years a new smoking trend has emerged: Vaping.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device. E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated into a vapor, which the person inhales.

According to national preliminary data from University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey:

  • 12th graders who vaped increased from 11% in 2017 to 25% in 2019
  • 10th graders who vaped increased from 8% to 20%
  • 8th graders who vaped increased from 4% to 9%

A common misconception among youth is that vaping is safer than smoking conventional cigarettes. While it is true that e-cigarette aerosol does not include the same contaminants in tobacco smoke, it does not mean that vaping is a healthier alternative. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette vapor can include harmful substances like diacetyl, volatile organic compounds, and even heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.

Vaping is a relatively new way of smoking and we won’t know the range of possible health risks until extensive research is completed. Despite what vaping companies like JUUL Labs Inc. (the most popular vape brand in the US) would like you to believe, they know their claims of e-cigarettes being safer than traditional cigarettes are not confirmed. In September of 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL Labs Inc. for marketing its products as modified risk tobacco products without an appropriate FDA order in effect. “Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful. JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth,” said FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to consider quitting! A recent study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health found that young people who use e-cigarettes were 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID, and those who use e-cigarettes plus conventional cigarettes are 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID. 

Visit https://health.ri.gov/healthrisks/tobacco/about/quitsmoking/ today for more information about quitting!