Kick ‘butts’ to live a healthy, smoke-free life

Several times a year, I have been writing articles for our HSC 2020 column on Tobacco prevention. I usually mention that “Tobacco use is still the number one preventable cause of death in the United States” and that remains true. This statement can cause readers worry or concern and it is meant to have an impact.

The key word is preventable.

It means that by changing a behavior in your life, such as quitting tobacco or tobacco products, you may add years to your life. A personal story that I can share is my father. My father died at age 72 from lung cancer. Was he a smoker? Yes. He smoked cigarettes from a young age, and in later years, he switched to cigars and then a pipe.

I remember him telling us “it might not be as bad as smoking cigarettes.” He did eventually quit, about seven years before he became ill. My mother was never a smoker and she will be 95 years old soon. Has not smoking had an impact on her life? I believe it has. My father died 23 years ago this month, and I have had all that extra time with my mother and I am grateful for it.

Wisconsin’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is lowering tobacco use. There have been life-changing successes, youth smoking rates keep dropping, and they report Wisconsin high school smoking rates have fallen 49 percent from 2004 -2014. Adult smoking rates in Wisconsin have dropped to an all-time low of 17 percent. To improve health and reduce death rates, efforts must focus on preventing the leading causes of death. The Center for Disease control (CDC) claims that avoiding tobacco, increasing physical activity, and healthier eating could prevent about 900,000 deaths of the 2.7 million of all United States deaths annually.

In Wisconsin there is still work to be done. 4,000 Wisconsin kids become smokers every year. 15 percent of Wisconsin deaths are due to smoking, and tobacco costs $4.7 billion a year in health care costs and productivity. By making an informed choice about healthier lifestyles, such as smoking cessation, readers may understand the dramatic impact of lifestyle change on prevention of disease. If we had more resources to do community education on the dangers of tobacco to reach our youth, or educate more parents, teachers, and community leaders, think of the impact that could have on saving lives!

More resources are needed to expand our States’ Quit Line services to help more people quit. More than 200,000 people have already been helped by the Quit Line since 2001.

If you want help quitting, please call the Quit Line at: Call 1-800-QUIT NOW.

Our efforts would not be possible without the support of organizations like Healthy Sheboygan County 2020. With partners like these, we can continue educating our community to tackle the issues like tobacco prevention. Want to help? If you are interested, join our substance abuse/ mental health or SCAN committees or help us recruit new members. Please go to our website for more information www.healthysheboygan If you would like more information on tobacco cessation resources, call Liz at 920- 459-3038 or email

Liz Abler, RN, is a Public Health Nurse and a member of the Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse committee.