2013-02-14 / Top News

American Heart Month encourages tobacco-free lifestyle for healthy hearts

February is American Heart Month and the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (the Center) and the North Dakota Department of Health are teaming up to raise awareness on how tobacco use impacts heart disease.

North Dakota Department of Health Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program Manager Karalee Harper said that smoking or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

“Smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke triggers a buildup of plaque in your arteries and increases the risk of blood clots forming,” Harper said.

Harper also reminds the public that cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers. “The more you smoke, the greater your risk of heart attack,” said Harper. In addition to causing heart attacks, smoking also damages blood vessels and a person’s entire cardiovascular system.

Jeanne Prom, director of the Center, said that an important component to avoiding heart disease is through prevention efforts like never starting to use tobacco.

“Every day 3,500 kids in the United States under age 18 try their first cigarette and an additional 1,000 kids become hooked on tobacco and become new daily users,” Prom said. “At least a third of these new smokers will die early from smoking-related causes.”

Prom said the tobacco industry is difficult to combat because it spends $25.7 million marketing their products to recruit new users in North Dakota alone. The majority of the tobacco companies’ marketing dollars are spent in the form of price discounts to make their products as cheap as possible so tobacco is appealing to new users.

According to the Center and the N.D. Department of Health, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in North Dakota. Last year, tobacco use killed 800 North Dakotans prematurely and cost the state over $247 million in healthcare. And, while the new statewide smoke-free law protects everyone from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, more work needs to be done so everyone can enjoy the health benefits of a tobaccofree lifestyle.

“Our new local and statewide smoke-free law will save lives by reducing the harm caused by secondhand smoke,” Bev Voller, RN with Emmons County Public Health said. “Now, we have to turn more attention on prevention efforts that will stop people from starting to use tobacco in the first place.”

By reinforcing the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle, a pattern of social norms take shape making it less acceptable to use tobacco, which will lead to a decrease in the number of tobacco users. The result will be saved lives and money for North Dakota.

To learn about preventing tobacco use, contact Bev Voller, RN at Emmons County Public Health (701) 254-4027 or go to www.breathend.com to learn more about tobacco prevention.

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