Giving Pennsylvania A Clean (Air) Bill Of Health

In addition to helping issues associated with secondhand smoke, Pennsylvania’s public smoking ban may help smokers who want to quit the habit.

According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, one of the greatest barriers to quitting is the presence of other people’s smoke. To a non-smoker, smoke-filled rooms and areas are repulsive. But to a smoker, especially one who’s trying to quit or who recently quit, it can be irresistible. In fact, every year 42 to 52 percent of current smokers attempt to quit.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society has long advocated for smoke-free environments, noting the benefits to all citizens. A recent poll of Pennsylvanians conducted by the Society’s Institute for Good Medicine indicated strong support for a smoking ban in workplaces and other public locations.

“Our studies show that the majority of Pennsylvanians want to avoid tobacco smoke,” said Mark A. Piasio, MD, past president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

According to Dr. Piasio, a smoke-free environment:

  • Appeals to those who don’t smoke. The more clean air you experience, the less tolerant you are of smoky air—just ask a former smoker.
  • Helps smokers smoke less
  • Makes quitting and staying smoke-free easier
  • Helps teens remain smoke-free

Witold Rybka, MD, past president of the Pennsylvania Society of Oncology & Hematology (PSOH), hopes that tobacco users will find it easier to quit as smoking is prohibited in more areas. “As smoke-free environments become the norm, the temptation won’t be as available. Ultimately, we’ll all be able to breathe better and live healthier.”

Whether it’s passive or personal, smoking kills. More than 20,000 Pennsylvanians die each year of tobacco-related illness. Yet according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, approximately one in four Pennsylvanians chooses to smoke in spite of the documented risks to their own health and to those around them.

Dr. Rybka says whether passive or personal, smoking is attributed to 85 percent of lung cancers. “The more you smoke or inhale secondhand smoke, the more cells are altered and the greater the risk of developing cancer.”

The consequences of smoking are far-reaching, from its broad economic impact (in 2005, $5.19 billion of Pennsylvania direct medical costs were related to smoking) to its noticeable impact on the body.

“Smoking affects your whole body. You can see it on a person’s face and hear it in his or her voice and breathing.  It damages your heart, your lungs and your bones,“ notes Edward Balaban, DO, immediate past president of PSOH and Medical Society member. “But no matter the damage, it’s never too late to quit.”

Both physicians advise smokers to talk with their family doctors about quitting. Several new prescription medications are available to address nicotine addiction, as are multiple nicotine replacement therapy products—gums, patches, nasal sprays and inhalers. Ask your doctor about local support groups and check out Pennsylvania’s Free Quitline, 1 (800) QUIT NOW to talk with a clinically trained counselor.

Tips from the Pennsylvania Medical Society to help smokers quit

  1. Get Ready—Set a date.  Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays. Learn where smoke free environments are enforced.  Don’t allow smoking in your home.
  2. Find support—Get help from your doctor. Talk to your friends and family that you plan on quitting and want their help.  Join a smoking cessation program.
  3. Find a new habit—Distract yourself from the urge to smoke. Change your routine. Reduce stress. Plan something enjoyable to do. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Prepare yourself to avoid relapse or bad situations—Avoid alcohol. Visit smokefree environments. Stay out of smoke-filled bars, restaurants and other locations. Eat a healthy diet and exercise. Think positive.

Sources:  PA Department of Health