By Uma Sivanathan
In dealing with the challenges and stresses of daily life, we might be led to habits that are not healthy for us, our children and all those around us. Smoking cigarettes is one of those habits.
There has been much education on the risks of smoking cigarettes. These risks include lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and harm to nearly every organ in the body. Smoking can also cause the narrowing of blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure.
Adults who choose to smoke have the responsibility to consider those around them, especially children, who may be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the end of a lit cigarette and the smoke that is breathed out.The smoke contains many chemicals, some of which are extremely toxic. Seventy of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. Breathing secondhand smoke can have immediate harmful effects on our blood vessels, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
There is no level of exposure to secondhand smoke that is free of risk.
Secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems in children. Studies show children whose parents smoke get sick more often. They get more bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections than children of parents who don’t smoke. The smoke can cause wheezing and coughing and set off episodes of asthma.
Parents can help to protect their children from secondhand smoke by not allowing anyone to smoke in or near their homes; not letting anyone smoke in their cars, even with the windows down; choosing day care centers and schools that are tobacco-free; finding restaurants and public places where smoking isn’t permitted.
Of great concern is the well-being of babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy. Some of the risks to the baby are stillbirth, an early delivery, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.
It is the perfect time for the mother-to-be to quit if she is a smoker, for her own sake and the long-term health of her baby. One free resource for quitting can be found at www.quitline.org.
Because of educational campaigns, there has been significant progress in the prevention of tobacco use, and more and more people are quitting.
Now we are faced with the more recent challenge of e-cigarette use. E-cigarettes are battery powered, and the nicotine is inhaled in aerosol form. This is called vaping. E-cigarettes come in flavors such as chocolate, cherry, cotton candy, bubble gum and cola, which promote continued use. Nicotine is a powerful, highly addictive drug.
The website www.lung.org states, “there has been a rapid rise in youth’s use of e-cigarettes in the U.S., including a 900 percent increase among high school students from 2011 to 2015.”
Last December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a groundbreaking report called, “E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults.” The conclusions in the report are: flavors in e-cigarettes are one of the main reasons youth use them; e-cigarette aerosol is not safe; and e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults.
The Surgeon General also concludes, ”E-cigarette use among youth is now a significant public health concern and steps must be taken by parents, educators and especially policymakers to discourage the use of e-cigarettes.”
In closing, I ask we work together as a community to stop the addiction of our youth to nicotine and all other harmful substances.
To get involved in advocacy or policy work, find out what’s being worked on in Hawai’i. Check out current laws and regulations regarding tobacco use, visit www.tobaccofreehawaii.org.
I also highly recommend visiting the Life Choices website at www.kauai.gov/LifesChoicesKauai and reading the book “Natural Highs, Feel Good All the Time,” by Dr. Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford.
With deep love for the children of Kauai, Uma.
- Uma Sivanathan is the Founder and President of Mana‘olana Center for Health and Healing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org