By: Morgan Pelt, communications manager at the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians
In case you didn’t know, Wednesday, March 21, is National Kick Butts Day!
In an effort to reduce tobacco use in adolescents, physicians all across the country will join teachers, youth leaders, and health advocates by standing up and speaking out against Big Tobacco. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined1. To me, it’s very clear as to why millions of people are outraged, including myself.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the tobacco industry spends more than $400 million each year on advertisements in Ohio1. These ads are targeting Ohio’s children and families, and it’s up to every one of us to kick its butt.
Did you know that 6,400 kids (under the age of 18) in Ohio become new daily smokers each year1? As family physicians, it’s important to encourage adolescent patients and their families to stay free of tobacco. There are more than 2 million adults who smoke in the buckeye state, and 20,200 adults who die from it annually1. These individuals represent mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, and if we have the chance to prevent it shouldn’t we?
“Approximately 90% of smokers start smoking before they turn 18,” said Mary Krebs, MD, of Wilmington, OH. “If we can keep our kids and adolescents from smoking, their chance of smoking plummets drastically.”
As a child, I remember seeing my mother, who was in her mid-20s at the time, smoke a cigarette. The white stick with an orange tip on the end was familiar to me at a very young age, releasing a foul odor with every exhale my mother took. Although, smoking around children is considered taboo in today’s society, it wasn’t a big deal or that uncommon to smoke around your children in the early 90s.
With time and more access to clinical data and studies, the data supporting individuals dying from second-hand smoke became more prevalent, and more concerning to my mother. As with anything in life, as time passes, the more we explore, learn, and share, the more we are able to use new information to make a difference or take action.
I remember my mother sharing stories of how she began smoking cigarettes in college and how strict she was about me not smoking throughout my adolescent years. When you pair her stringent teachings about not smoking tobacco with an elementary school curriculum providing educational programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E), it was easy for me to grow up tobacco-free. It’s not easy for everyone, but I was one less number in a deathly statistic.
If she could, my mother would have stopped smoking a long time ago. She has always discouraged my siblings and me from smoking because it’s an addictive habit that is, till this day, too hard for her to quit. If you have patients, spouses, children, friends, or family members who smoke, encourage them to take charge of their health and to kick butts with us on Wednesday, March 21.
For more information about how you can participate in National Kick Butts Day, visit the Kick Butts Day website.