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Blubaugh: A resolution that could save your life

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? Lost any weight yet? Been more productive? Picked up a new hobby?

Yeah, me neither.

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Making changes simply because the calendar flips from one year to the next is completely arbitrary, but it’s a tradition and there’s something about starting fresh. So somewhere around two-thirds of Americans ring in the New Year with a resolution to change something about themselves. Only about 1 in 10 people actually stick with those resolutions.

Perusing a number of different websites, it seems like there are 10 or so resolutions more popular than the rest, largely unchanged over the past few decades. People want to get healthier. And organized. They want to learn something new and live life to the fullest. They want to save money. They want to spend more time with family and travel. They want to read more — hey, we can help with that one! — and they want to reduce stress.

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And, among Americans’ top resolutions for half a century, they want to quit smoking.

This might be a resolution people actually stick with. The number of smokers in this country has dropped by about two-thirds over that time frame. Still, 14% of adults and maybe 5% of teens smoke cigarettes. That’s still millions and millions of people — millions and millions of people who will be at significant risk of lung cancer and other deadly diseases.

The sad part is, we were on our way to eradicating smoking among young people. It had fallen 70 percent among teens just since 2000. And then came vaping.

A recent study by the University of Michigan found that more than a third of high school seniors had vaped nicotine in the past year. For 10th-graders, that figure was 31%. Nicotine is highly addictive and damages young brains. And then there are those who vape marijuana. Forget about the moral or legal arguments and just consider that lung disease associated with contaminated vaping products has killed more than 50 people and sent more than 2,500 to hospitals, according to the Washington Post, many of them teens and young adults who vaped with THC, an ingredient in marijuana largely obtained on the black market.

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This nation was sold on vaping as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking that would help people quit altogether. But is it really?

According to the American Lung Association, the Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. They have a campaign urging smokers to “Quit, Don’t Switch,” noting that no tobacco product is safe, that research shows e-cigarettes contain dangerous metals and toxic chemicals and that switching to e-cigarettes does not mean quitting, quitting means ending the addiction to nicotine.

The best part about quitting? Your body gets healthier. Nine months after quitting, circulation has dramatically improved and lungs have significantly healed, according to Medical News Today. Five years after quitting, arteries have widened severely reducing the chance of a stroke. Ten years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is half that of someone who continued to smoke. And some 150,000 people die of lung cancer each year.

I went to four funerals in 2019. Three were directly attributable to smoking. It’s morbid, but I sat down and tried to make a list of every funeral I’ve ever attended. As near as I can figure, somewhere around two-thirds of those were related to smoking.

If you’ve already quit, great. Stick with it. If not, don’t wait for an arbitrary calendar flip. Quit today. Because my only resolution for 2020 is to not attend any more funerals.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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