November is COPD awareness month. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It is marked by a chronic cough producing increasing amounts of phlegm, and gradually worsening shortness of breath. Unfortunately, the symptoms of COPD do not appear until significant lung damage has been done, at which point the damage cannot be fixed. Nine out of 10 people who have COPD are currently or have been smokers. The single most effective way to prevent COPD is to quit, or, better yet, never start smoking. Working in pulmonary rehab for 14 years has exposed me to some of the worse cases of COPD in the area. Watching the fun-loving, big-hearted people ever so slowly file into the room for exercise was heart-breaking. If I had a dime for every time one of them told me “I wish that I had never started smoking. I would be a rich woman.” Decades ago when these patients were teenagers, they were much like the teenagers today. They just wanted to “try it” or they would “quit when I get older.” What they don’t realize at the tender age of 16 is just how addictive the tobacco companies make their products. Their best customers are dying off at the rate of 443,000 per year.
Almost everyone in the community can play a part in decreasing the devastating effects of this debilitating disease. Tobacco users can go to www.smokefree.gov or call 1-800-quit-now to get support for quitting. Parents can make their homes and vehicles completely smoke-free and make it explicitly clear to their children that they have a zero-tolerance policy for tobacco use. Retailers can be sure to check photo ID of any customer purchasing tobacco products who looks 26 years old or younger and not sell a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 18. It’s the law and there are ramifications for anyone breaking it. Employers can establish and enforce no-tobacco-use policies during work hours. Health care providers can ask every patient at every visit if they use any tobacco products and strongly encourage them to quit and give them the resources to do it. Community leaders can enact smoke-free outdoor public spaces in parks and outdoor fairs/festivals and increase the tax on any tobacco product. Seventy-three percent of current smokers want to quit, so let’s make it easier for them!
The Pulmonary and Sleep Center at 528 West Market St. in Lima will offer a Free Lung Screening from 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 15. We will do a simple spirometry test and you can also have a finger stick done to test for Alpha 1- antitrypsin deficiency (ATT), an inherited disorder that results in lung damage and shortness of breath. The screenings are free, however, we would like to get a count of how many people may be coming. RSVP to 419-221-5035.
Nancy Bonifas, RN, BSN
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Allen County Tobacco Free Coalition