I can dream....

...of a world without tobacco...this is world no tobacco day

It seems we have a "day" week, or month to celebrate just about anything and everything these days. Today, and every year on MAY 31, is a day declared by the WHO as a 24-hour period when we can and should forgo our use of ANY form of tobacco. For most, that form is cigarettes, for others it is chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes or hookahs. No form is safer than another. All contain nicotine which is addicting, and tar, which will eventually kill you (someone dies every six seconds from tobacco use).

Tobacco is not only used frequently, but it is also often a topic of written and spoken conversation. The Roanoke Times' Dan Casey (www.roanoke.com) had a rant in this morning's paper about the cigarette butts that accumulate in the unofficial smoking block across the street from Roanoke Memorial; the NY Times had a story about the harmful effects of Hookahs, once thought to be less dangerous than cigarettes because of the (non-existent) filtering effects of the water. Over the weekend I heard a radio spot on NPR about "roll your own" cigarettes, and how small businessnes were opeing up all over to allow common folk to do that in a centralized place, kind of in the same way you can go to certain craft shops and "fire your own" ceramic pottery.

The topic of eliminating  tobacco for a day does not appear to be "trending" on Twitter, except in Latin America where the #tabaco hashtag has been noted on Tweetdeck as the last member of the list of currently trending , and #diamunialsintabaco" is number three on the Twitter website itself.

What does this mean? Clearly, if Twitter gives us a sense of what connected folks believe to be important in their own lives by how much chatter goes around about a certain topic, it may be clear that no one really cares. Why stomp out your cigarette, spit out your smokeless tobacco (NOT on my rug please), or extinguish the flame on your cigar for a single day? What can it do?

Maybe, just maybe it can show you that you CAN quit.

Maybe it can help a child see that his or her parents care enough about him or her as well as themselves, to stop using tobacco products for more than just a day.

Dan Casey seemed to be upset that at Carilion Roanoke Memorial we "allow" patients to smoke. I guess smoking  is to some extent their right. My rant is about the pregnant women who are out there on that smoking block, doing harm to their unborn infants. And what about the Carilion employees? There are a growing number of employers, especially in the health care arena, who will NOT hire someone who smokes; and starting to smoke after starting to work may be grounds for dismissal. How can we say we value the health of our employees, if we don't truly help them to live healthier lives? That would include stopping smoking, becoming more active, losing weight for those who are overweight, and treating their high blood pressure and other chronic ailments.

Should we do that? I don't know. On the one hand, I am an avid anti-smoking advocate. Perhaps because I grew up constantly exposed to second-hand smoke. Perhaps because my grandfather died of COPD, and my brother died of lung cancer, both after a very long smoking history. Perhaps because I want my patients to be able take a deep breath and not inhale the smoke or the residue on their parents and grandparents clothes ("I smoke OUTSIDE the house").  On the other hand, I value the freedom to choose a life-style or behavior even if others find it objectionable. I wouldn't want someone to outlaw the color red because it gave others a headache. That kind of thing could really get out of hand.

So, would you, could you, just for today, snuff out that cigarette, and leave the chewing tobacco in its pouch. Then maybe today could become tomorrow, and you'd be on your way to leaving it behind for good.

Perhaps I am just an idealist, and we will never be a tobacco-free society, but I can dream...

Recent Comments

Does anyone realize that when the hospital allows inpatients to leave the hospital to smoke and then allows them to return as an inpatient without being discharged and readmitted that they have committed insurance fraud? In an insurance company's opinion, if the patient is well enough to leave hospital property to smoke, they are well enough to be treated on an outpatient basis???

That is an interesting comment. I am afraid that I cannot respond definitively to your assertoion, as I never allow my pediatric patients to leave to smoke, since they are minors and that would be illegal. I will try to get someone from our legal department to offer an opinion on this. Thanks for raising the issue.

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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