Did you know that tobacco kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined? Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States.
A common misconception is that only smoking can cause illness and death and that smokeless tobacco is a safer option. On the contrary, the surgeon general has determined that the use of smokeless tobacco can lead to oral cancer, gum disease, and nicotine addiction. Tobacco juices resulting from smokeless tobacco use causes cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach and pancreas.
As stated in a report published by the American Lung Association "Cutting Tobacco's Rural Roots," residents of rural communities are more likely to use tobacco, start at a younger age, use more heavily and have especially high rates of smokeless tobacco use. Rural Americans are also more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke and less likely to have access to programs that help them quit smoking.
Rural youth are more likely to be surrounded by role models who are tobacco users than their counterparts in the city. Smokeless tobacco use is more than twice as common in rural areas for every age group than those from metropolitan areas. These disparities perpetuate a culture of tobacco use that ultimately results in higher rates of tobacco-related illness and death among this rural population.
The situation is alarming, but Madera County's rural communities can change this statistic. We can all start by spreading the word in our community about the resources available to smokers and smokeless tobacco users. More specifically, you can help by referring tobacco users to the health department where all Madera County residents can enroll in free individual or group tobacco cessation counseling.
For more information on how you could help reduce and ultimately alleviate the burden of tobacco use in Madera County, call the health department at (559) 675-7893. Let's work together to help save lives in our rural communities.
Sarah Alvarez, Madera County Public Health Department Tobacco Control