In 1971 the “Great American Smokeout” began when Arthur P. Mullaney, a Massachusetts high school guidance counselor, asked townspeople to stop smoking for a day and donate that money to a scholarship fund instead. Six years later, the American Cancer Society took the idea nationwide. Not insignificantly, the November 15th “Smokeout” coincides with both Lung Cancer Awareness and National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. While it is true that this event has spearheaded major attitude changes regarding smoking and secondhand smoke, tobacco use is still the largest contributor to premature death in the U.S. The good news is that smoking is declining among 18-29 year olds; falling from 34% in 2001-5 to 25% in 2011-2012. The bad news is, that quitting remains a difficult if not unsustainable goal for many smokers of all ages. Most of us know someone who is struggling and in need of sustained support to overcome their addiction. Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants are an essential part of that support team.
Much of this input is educational, about the ever-expanding list of diseases associated with the behavior. Two recent studies link smoking with increases in the incidence of lower back pain and psoriatic arthritis (PA). The Harvard University study found that long-term heavy smokers developed more severe cases of PA. The underlying assumption being that there is a molecular/ biological link between smoking and this disease, possibly due to oxidative stress or immunological/inflammatory effects. A second study, at Paris-Descartes University, linked smoking to early onset inflammatory back pain and reduced functionality from pelvic/spinal joint damage. Such links should give one pause, however not everyone can be “scared” into quitting. Nonetheless, OTs and COTAs must not be deterred from advising smokers of such results. Better to temper the news with other means of support, such as: devising quit smoking plans; recommending tobacco cessation programs; and working closely with the rest of the support team.
Centra applauds all those who participate in this event: those who quit that day… those who will try to quit… and those who are part of the support team. We are on your side in the effort! We are also on your side if you are looking for new opportunities to use your skills. Call us at 800 535 0076!