A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

CDC’s ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ campaign urges smoking cessation in Eastern Kentucky

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Last week, Kentucky Public Health officials, community leaders and former smokers spoke to residents of Hazard as part of the Centers for Disease Control’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign.

Amanda is a former smoker who has been traveling the country telling her story about how smoking affected the birth of her baby daughter. Amanda started smoking in fifth grade, and by age 13, she smoked every day. She now works as a tobacco-cessation counselor to help pregnant women and new moms quit smoking.

In 2016, nearly 30% of Kentucky women aged 18-44 reported smoking every day or some days. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“It seemed like everyone smoked,” Amanda said. “A lot of my family members smoked, a lot of people in the community smoked. A lot of older kids were smoking, my peers were smoking. And as an adolescent, you want to grow up, you want to feel like an adult. And most of the adults I knew smoked.”

According to the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, each year more than 8,000 Kentuckians die of tobacco-related illnesses, such as lung disease. The state’s Medicaid and Medicare costs to treat smoking-related disease top $1.2 billion.

Because she smoked during pregnancy, Amanda’s baby was born two months premature. She said she’s passionate about urging women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant to at least try to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke during their pregnancy or quit for the 9-month period.

“My daughter was born two months early because of my smoking,” she said. “She continues to have some health issues like asthma and allergies because of my smoking.”

A poll released earlier this year by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky found the state’s 50-cent tax increase on cigarettes, which went into effect last summer, has slightly curbed smoking. Of those surveyed, 39% of smokers said they cut back on cigarettes due to the cost increase.

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