To the editor:
As a member of the Madison County Board of Health and a pediatrician who sees the direct effects of secondhand smoke and tobacco marketing on children in my office every day, I have a strong interest in protecting the health of youth.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of early death in the United States. Children of smokers have more ear infections, asthma attacks, and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Adults who smoke have more heart attacks, strokes, lung cancers and emphysema.
Research shows that displays of tobacco products increase the likelihood that youth will start smoking. Tobacco product displays create a false impression for youth that tobacco use is the norm and is popular.
The Madison County Board of Health is working on a policy that would require tobacco products to be kept out of sight of the public in facilities open to minors in Madison County.
The policy will not restrict adults from buying tobacco products, but it will go a long way to protect youth from starting to smoke. This will have a huge impact on the health of the next generation.
Adults make their own decisions about smoking, but the average smoker tried his first cigarette at age 14. Over 90 percent of regular smokers started smoking before the age of 18.
Since the nicotine in tobacco products is very addictive, smokers become dependent and find it difficult to quit.
However, most smokers would like to quit. I talk to parents every day who wish they could quit. It can take multiple tries before becoming tobacco-free, but it can be done.
There are more former smokers today than current smokers. Helping people to quit tobacco is important. New York State has help at 1-866-NY-QUITS, or nysmokefree.com.
The Madison County Board of Health is interested in input from the community as we work on this policy to reduce youth exposure to tobacco products. Please direct comments to the Board of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Meyers, MD
Community Memorial Hospital