This weekend is the best time to declare your freedom from tobacco use! Addiction to tobacco products keeps thousands of Hoosiers from living a healthier life. The decision to quit using tobacco products may be an obvious one for many, but it can be a difficult journey to take.
That is why it is important for those who are ready to quit to focus on their own reason for quitting. Do you want to help protect your family from secondhand smoke? Do you want to improve your health? Are your concerned about all the money you could be saving instead of buying tobacco products?
There are countless reasons that people choose to help them overcome their tobacco addiction. What will your reason be for quitting?
Along with the support of loved ones and your health care provider, there is free help available through the Indiana Tobacco Quitline. Call 1-800-Quit-Now or visit QuitNowIndiana.com when you’re ready to take the first step towards a tobacco-free life. And have a safe and fun 4th of July weekend!
Peter Grinspoon, MD
I am a primary care doctor who has recovered from — and who treats — opiate addiction. I work in an inner-city primary care clinic in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the state, due, in part, to poverty. These two experiences offer me a clear view of how these two epidemics — COVID-19 and opioid addiction — can impact and worsen each other. Two great epidemics of our generation are intersecting in ways that are additively deadly, and which highlight the urgent ways we must respond to some of the underlying fault lines in our society that are worsening both crises.
Social determinants of health create greater vulnerability
People who suffer from the disease of addiction are particularly vulnerable to both catching the coronavirus and having a more severe disease when they do catch it. There are many reasons for this, but they boil down to something called social determinants of health, which according to the CDC are “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play [which] affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.” In short, people suffering from addiction are vastly more vulnerable to coronavirus, as they are more likely to be homeless, poor, smokers with lung or cardiovascular disease, under- or uninsured, or have experienced serious health and socioeconomic issues from drug addiction. There are also millions of vulnerable incarcerated people, many of whom are stuck in jail due to their addictions and related nonviolent drug offenses.
Treatments and support systems may be disrupted
For someone struggling with addiction, virtually all of the services and treatments available to them have been disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic. People are told to stay home, which directly contradicts the need to go to clinics to obtain methadone or other medications for treating addiction. Our government, in response, has relaxed regulations so that, in theory, clinics can give 14-day or even 28-day supplies to “stable” patients, so that they don’t have to wait in line and can adhere to social distancing for safety. Unfortunately, there are countless stories of patients not being granted this privilege, including at least one of my own patients.
Similarly, the government has relaxed some restrictions on buprenorphine prescribing, and has allowed some telephone prescribing, but this presupposes that there are doctors available that are healthy and certified to prescribe this medication, and that the pharmacies and doctors’ offices are functioning. Access to clean needles is affected as well. Additionally, may rehab facilities have limited new admissions, cancelled programs, or even shuttered their doors for fear of spreading coronavirus in a communal living setting.
Social isolation increases the risk for addiction
A common truism in recovery culture is that “addiction is a disease of isolation,” so it stands to reason that social distancing — in every possible way — is counter to most efforts to engage in a recovery community. It is important to remember that experts distinguish between physical distancing and social distancing, and actually emphasize that we keep physical distance, but make extra efforts to maintain social bonds during this time of enormous stress and dislocation.
The social isolation that is so critical to preventing the spread of coronavirus prevents people from attending peer-support groups, which are such a vital source of emotional and spiritual support to people struggling to stay in recovery.
Isolation may increase the risk of overdose deaths
Heightened anxiety is a near-universal trigger for drug use, and it is difficult to think of a more stressful event — for all of us — than this pandemic. Users who adopted harm reduction techniques and had been using drugs with a friend are now using them alone, and there is no one nearby who could administer naloxone or call 911 in the event of an overdose. As a consequence, police have been finding people dead in their apartments. When people do call 911, the health care system is overloaded, and first responders may arrive more slowly. We know that starting addiction treatment in the ED can help prevent relapse, but right now emergency room doctors are absolutely overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, and might not have the time or resources available to start addiction medications following an overdose.
Sadly, the ugly face of stigma and discrimination is coming out as well, as there are reports surfacing of police departments across the country that are refusing to offer naloxone to patients who have overdosed, on the pretext that it is too dangerous because the “addict” might wake up coughing and sneezing coronavirus droplets.
Multiple health crises mean comprehensive solutions
What we need to do now is reach out more than ever to those who are struggling with addiction, and provide them with the resources, such as online meetings, so that they are not alone and forgotten during this dual crisis of coronavirus and addiction. We need to make sure that they are getting the medications they need to recover, that they have access to clean needles if they are still using, adequate medical care, food, and housing — basic human needs.
If any good has come out of the misery of the combined COVID-19 and opioid epidemics, perhaps it is that a clear, bright light has been shined on the deadly social fissures — poverty, income inequality, lack of health insurance and access to healthcare, homelessness — that are the true social determinants of health we will need to address as part of an effective response to future pandemics.
This Sunday many churched will make the decision to observe No Menthol Sunday as a congregation. This began as a way to highlight the marketing tactics of tobacco companies to specific populations, and grew into an outrage about the sale of flavored tobacco products to our youth.
There are so many facts and figures that show the significant increase in tobacco use as a result of flavors, like menthol, being created to market to our children and, in turn, also being used by the adult population. However, the most significant statistic shows that 97% of youth that use e-cigarette's also use flavors, and most of them would not have started using tobacco products if flavors were not available. Because menthol exists, a new generation of tobacco users has begun and decades worth of targeted marketing to Black communities specifically.
As congregations gather this Sunday, their goal is to focus on the theme of "Awaken!", which encourages them to not be deceived by the ill intentions of others and focuses on Ephesians 5:5-15. When it comes to protecting our young people and our most vulnerable communities, we must not grow weary or turn a blind eye.
No Menthol Sunday is the perfect time to raise our consciousness about these important issues. When people of faith remain vigilant, educate youth, and inspire community action, we will begin to move toward total health justice!
If you would like to read more about menthol facts, statistics, regulations, and marketing, click here.
May is the month to recognize our previous, current, and future mothers! And I wanted to take time to talk about the benefits of quitting smoking as a pregnant woman or current mother. No matter how old you are, or how many kids that you have, strong women deserve to be celebrated! And sometimes mothers forget to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, 1 out of 5 women in Indiana are of child-bearing age, and many of them are both pregnant and current smokers; this contributes to our 11.5% smoking rate among pregnant women in Indiana. I believe that this number would significantly decrease if we helped our mothers make themselves, and their health, a priority!
Here is a list of the risks of smoking during pregnancy:
Here is a list of risks associated with children breathing secondhand smoke:
I don't need to convince you that smoking is bad for you to participate in or for your kids to be affected by, but I am sure that we can all agree that self care is not a high enough priority for our mothers. Let's stay educated and find new ways to support the health and lifestyle changes of the mothers within our community!
When we think about Earth Day, we think of conserving water, recycling, and maybe even carpooling, but what about tobacco use? Tobacco production and use affects the world in more ways that you would think; it contributes to so much of our waste, air pollution, occurrences of uncontrolled fires, and production that is just overall so harmful to our environment.
The packaging and labeling of tobacco products is resource-intensive in terms of the paper, plastic and chemicals that manufacturers use. Millions of tons of packaging waste, much of it plastic, ends up as litter or helps to overwhelm landfills around the world. Similarly, the disposal of cigarette waste after consumption causes harm to the environment. In beach clean-up efforts around the world, cigarette butts are the largest contributor to littering world-wide.
Also, the production of tobacco and tobacco products causes widespread environmental degradation around the world. It begins with the preparation of land for tobacco cultivation and carries through the life of these products as they are manufactured, marketed and consumed. And it is not uncommon for tobacco farmers clear the forest by burning it; often, this land is agriculturally marginal and after only a few seasons, the land is abandoned, contributing in many cases to desertification. Not only does burning generate vast amounts of air and land, water and air pollutants, much of this land is cleared from carbon dioxide-absorbing forest cover. As a result, tobacco cultivation is exacerbating greenhouse gas levels.
Lastly, the fires caused by cigarettes do tremendous damage to the environment, beyond their costs in terms of lives lost and direct economic loss. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of both house and forest fires throughout the world. In both the USA and the United Kingdom, cigarettes are the single greatest cause of fire-related deaths, and are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in fire-related
Tobacco use affects our environment in an extremely significant way, and Earth Day is the perfect time to highlight these Earth-changing truths!
This month is National Stress Month! That seems appropriate with all of the stressful things going on in the world, right? And I wanted to talk about how this relates to increased amounts of tobacco consumption because, well, that's my job!
A common trigger for tobacco users is the feeling of stress, because tobacco seems to be an effective coping mechanism for the individuals who use it. What a lot of people don't know is that tobacco is actually a stimulant drug, which means that it speeds up your body's functioning, making you feel more anxious and overwhelmed that before. Stimulants also raise your heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which can contribute to the feeling of stress that you are having.
So what's the solution? We can talk about the obvious solution of quitting all day long, and if that is what you are thinking about, then you should definitely call 1-800-QUITNOW. But if that's not the route that you were hoping to take, then I have a few alternative ways to deal with stress that might be effective for you.
And the number one recommendation is to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Let's try our best to productively manage our stress!
As you may know, tomorrow is National Pet Day! And I know that you do not need me to tell you about the harmful affects that smoking can have on your own health, or even the harmful affects that second-hand smoking can have on the individuals that you live with, but it is rare that we have the opportunity to talk about the affect that tobacco use can have on the animals that live in your home.
Because our pets share our environments, they also share our environmental exposures. Second-hand smoke does affect the health of the animals that are living in the home of a smoker. Dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher levels of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood, indicating exposure to secondhand smoke. Dogs were also more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer if a smoker lived in the home. Also, cats that live in smoking households are more than twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma (a type of cancer) compared to cats in nonsmoking households.
Smoking outside the home reduces the concentration of environmental tobacco smoke in the house, but doesn’t eliminate it. A study found that environmental tobacco levels in homes of smokers who smoked outdoors were still five to seven times higher than in households of nonsmokers. And it’s not just the secondhand smoke that poses a risk for your pets: discarded cigarette butts or other tobacco products left within reach of pets can cause gastrointestinal problems or even nicotine toxicity if your pet finds and eats them.
If you choose to use cigarettes or e-cigarettes, please consider quitting not just for the sake of your own health, but for the health of your family and your pets. And if you choose to use these products, make sure to take extra precautions to keep your pets safe.
Multiple Authors including coalition staff, board members, and coalition members contribute to this page.