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Public Health View: Great American Smokeout a perfect time to give up smoking | COMMENTARY

The Great American Smokeout is an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society on the third Thursday of November. This year’s event falls today, on Nov. 19.

The dangers of tobacco use are well-documented. The Great American Smokeout is a perfect day to start a quit plan or encourage someone as they quit tobacco use. This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important for people who smoke or use vape products to consider quitting.

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  • Smoking tobacco products causes or contributes to many adverse health effects. Some of these health effects occur in the lungs.
  • Smoking impairs and eventually destroys cilia, the hair-like structures that sweep particles, such as viruses, bacteria, and pollen, out of the lungs to keep them clean.
  • Smoking damages and destroys alveoli, tiny air sacs in the lungs that allow oxygen exchange. Alveoli do not grow back. When enough are destroyed, the result is the lung disease emphysema.
  • Smoking triggers inflammation of the lungs, which often results in cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

In comparison to conventional tobacco products, e-cigarettes and similar vape products have been available only a short time. There is a growing evidence, however, which shows that use of vape products can also harm the lungs.

The flavoring ingredients that are main components of vape products' liquid (or “e-liquid”), when heated and inhaled, can produce lung irritation and lung disease. There are also many toxic chemicals in the “vapor” exhaled by the e-cigarette user.

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The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms in people who are infected with it. In the lungs, the damage caused by the coronavirus includes the same types of damage that smoking causes.

A study from the University of California San Francisco found that smokers with COVID-19 had nearly twice the odds of progressing to severe or critical condition or death compared to those who have never smoked. In other words, a person whose lungs are already damaged by smoking is at an increased risk of having a poor outcome if he or she becomes infected with COVID-19.

If you are ready to quit using tobacco products, the Carroll County Health Department can help you. The health department offers individual counseling and vouchers for nicotine replacement therapy products or Chantix® (with a prescription).

This program is available at no cost to Carroll County residents. Call 410-876-4429 or 410-876-4443 for information and an appointment. You can also visit https://cchd.maryland.gov.

Why not celebrate The Great American Smokeout by taking the first step toward quitting today?

Anne Grauel, M.P.H., is a community health educator, Cigarette Restitution Fund Programs, with the Carroll County Health Department.

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