Up in smoke: Tobacco myths persist 50 years

Misconceptions about tobacco use still exist today some 50 years after the release of the inaugural Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964. Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, examines some of the lingering myths that need to be dispelled.

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Tobacco misconceptions are still prevalent in the United States despite the dramatic drop in smoking rates since the release of the first Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health in January 1964.(1)

To view a PDF showing smoking's 50-year decline, click here.(1)

According to MD Anderson, there are a number of myths that need to be dispelled.

Tobacco Myth #1: Almost no one smokes any more.(1)
Fact: About 43.8 million people still smoke. That’s almost one in five people in the United States.

Tobacco Myth #2: e-Cigarettes, cigars and hookahs are safe alternatives.(1)
Fact: All tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and hookahs, have nicotine. And it’s nicotine’s highly addictive properties that make these products harmful.

Electronic cigarettes are often touted as a safe way for smokers to try to kick their habit. However, it is not just smokers who are getting their fix this way. According to a survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 middle school students who have tried one say they have never smoked a "real" cigarette. And between 2011 and 2012, e-cigarettes doubled in popularity among middle and high school students.(2)

A "vape pen" is a hand-held, battery-powered device that vaporizes a liquid that is often infused with nicotine. You inhale the vapor through a mouthpiece, and exhale what looks like smoke. In this case, the smoke smelled like candy.

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Tobacco Myth #3: Infrequent, social smoking is harmless.(1)
Fact: Any smoking, even social smoking, is dangerous.

Tobacco Myth #4: Smoking outside eliminates the dangers of secondhand smoke.(1)
Fact: There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can cause harm.

To view a PDF of smoking costs and casualties, click here.

As part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shot program to end cancer, experts have developed a comprehensive plan that addresses the burden of tobacco use in institutions, communities, states and nations.(3) The “End Tobacco” plan recommends more than 100 actions in the areas of policy, education and community-based services that MD Anderson can lead to end tobacco at the institutional, local, regional, state, national and international levels.(4)

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Regarding electronic cigarettes, a dog owner warned fellow pet owners about the dangers of electronic cigarettes after his Staffordshire Terrier puppy accidentally ingested a bit of the liquid and died. Keith Sutton’s dog, Ivy, bit through a capsule of the e-cigarette refill liquid and within 30 seconds the poison took hold and a few hours later she was dead.(5) I think it is obvious that one should also keep items such as these out of the reach of children.

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As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), launched the government's largest effort yet to curb tobacco use among at-risk teens. The $115 million media campaign follows the FDA's new authority to regulate tobacco, granted by a 2009 law. The ads will target the roughly 10 million American teens who are open to smoking or are already experimenting with cigarettes.(6)

It discusses things like smoking may stain your teeth and turn your fingers yellow, and that it can also harm your skin by destroying its elastic fibers and weakening its ability to repair itself.(7)

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1. http://www.mdanderson.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013/tobaccosmokingmyths.html.
2. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/17/276558592/candy-flavors-put-e-cigarettes-on-kids-menu.
3. http://www.cancermoonshots.org/.
4. http://www.cancermoonshots.org/platforms/cancer-prevention-control/.
5. http://www.dogheirs.com/elleng/posts/5158-dog-owner-warns-that-e-cigarettes-are-a-serious-danger-to-dogs-after-his-puppy-dies.
6. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm384049.htm.
7. http://therealcost.betobaccofree.hhs.gov/costs/health-costs/index.html.

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Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, click here.

To read more about tobacco use and dental hygiene, click here.

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