It’s their prerogative to ignore the side effects: the smoke, the smell and the cost, to name a few. Likewise, they can take doctors’ consistent warnings about the health dangers of smoking and summarily disregard them.
If Alabamians want to smoke where it’s legal, they can.
But it’s simply unfathomable that Alabama’s smokers willingly continue the habit considering the overwhelming scientific proof that cigarettes are bad for your health. Of that, there’s no debate. The latest confirmation came recently in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that linked Alabama’s high rate of smoking to the state’s high rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
This is what one doctor told The Star. “The only real way proven to deal with COPD is to quit smoking,” said Dr. Mark Dransfield at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Yet, there seems to be no realistic hope that Alabamians will use the coming of the New Year as a catalyst for drastically reducing smoking habits and, in turn, the state’s health.
That saddens us.
COPD is a collection of respiratory conditions that, in laymen’s terms, hinder patients’ breathing, affects their lungs and can lead to severe and chronic cases of bronchitis. As Star reporter Patrick McCreless explained in a Wednesday story, COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and Alabama has the nation’s second-highest rate of the disease.
Likewise, 22.1 percent of Alabamians smoke, which is why the state is ranked 42nd among states with the highest prevalence of smoking.
Added together, Alabama represents a toxic combination of anti-tobacco tax laws, few bans on smoking in public places, high rates of smoking and high incidences of COPD. (And that says nothing about the state’s high rate of cancer.)
Alabama is its own worst enemy.
This editorial board has written often in recent months about its concerns about the state’s high rates of adult obesity, childhood obesity and obesity-related health problems. We hope people are listening when we show that healthier eating and exercise habits can improve their lives.
It is with that same vigor that we urge Alabamians to put down their cigarettes and begin a healthier chapter to their lives. The information is clear: smoking damages bodies and kills people. It makes people sick. But don’t do it because we say so; do it for yourself.