Wow, I’ve officially been writing these blogs for the American Heart Association for a year now! Each month I am so excited for the opportunity to share new information with you - thanks for tagging along with me!
This month, I’d like to dive into a topic that means a lot to me personally- the tobacco endgame. Fun fact: as Miss Wyoming I advocated for increasing tobacco taxes alongside the AHA! My dad is a former tobacco user, and I have seen the possible health consequences as well as the extreme difficulty in quitting because of it - my best advice is to never start in the first place. I’m so proud of my dad for his decision to stop using tobacco products a few years ago - he is healthier and happier because of it, and I will also have him around for longer because he has embraced healthier habits!
Luckily, the American Heart Association feels that end could be near for the use of tobacco and nicotine products. According to the AHA, about 14% of Americans smoke now. One of their missions is to make that number less than 5%, and save millions of lives in the process! However, a couple of roadblocks stand in the way- such as tobacco products like e-cigarettes, hookah, and smokeless tobacco, etc., being used more often by young adults and even children in the U.S. Between 2017 and 2018, rates of vaping rose by 78% among high schoolers and 48% among middle schoolers (2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey). Unfortunately, a lot of young people are completely unaware that these products are harmful, much less that they are typically more concentrated with nicotine than regular cigarettes! Repeat after me: the truth is, THERE ARE NO SAFE TOBACCO PRODUCTS. Many youth adopt these habits when they see peers or family members taking part in activities like vaping, so let’s set a good example and put a stop to it.
Furthermore, studies show that if someone doesn’t become a tobacco user before the age of 25, they are incredibly likely to never start. Nearly 90% of those who are addicted say that they started before they were 18 years old- and developing brains are most susceptible to addiction during these teenage/ young adult years! I know this is true because that’s the way my dad started using tobacco products, and he always told me when I was younger that he wished he never had.
Tobacco companies thrive on misinforming their customers- because that keeps them addicted, especially when they start at a young age. That’s a powerful statement, and it impacts every single one of our nation’s youth in one way or another
How can you help? Continue to support legislation and policy that includes education, prevention programs, and clean indoor air laws. Other proven methods of reducing tobacco use include increasing taxes paid on tobacco products and raising the required age for legal sale of tobacco to 21- just like alcohol! But even better, the biggest thing you can do to save lives and help the AHA in this initiative is to realize that change starts with you. If you are a tobacco user, form a plan to quit and seek help if necessary! It’s not an easy process, but it is entirely worth it. Your heart, family, and friends will be so thankful- trust me. Additionally, if you know someone who vapes, smokes cigarettes, or uses other forms of tobacco and nicotine, especially if they are young, talk to them about it today. Let them know how much you care, and be there to support them through the transition. It’s time that we stop being passive about something that is so harmful- it does have an impact on all of us.
You can take action by signing the pledge to help us protect all Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine addiction. We can’t do it without your support- please help us decrease the rate of use for cigarettes and other harmful tobacco products today! By working together, we can ensure recent unfortunate trends toward newer products like e-cigarettes stop and are no longer marketed toward our youth.
So tobacco; this is the ENDGAME. Join me in taking a stand against addiction for our future generations!
P.S., as we head into May, remember that it is National Stroke Awareness Month! According to the American Stroke Association, heart stroke is the number 5 cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. The good news is that there are many things you can do to prevent stroke, including managing blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, getting at least 30 minutest of exercise every day, and eating more nutritious foods! Learn more at https://www.strokeassociation.org/.
Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 and AHA Advocate,
Remember, a healthier heart means a happier you!