Local Features
11:16 am
Fri July 17, 2009

FDA Regulates Tobacco

Murray, KY – According to The Foundation for a Smoke-Free America, 400,000 people die each year in the country due to tobacco smoking. That's 1200 people each day. And it's not adults that are taking up the habit. Sixty percent of smokers start by the age of 14, with ninety percent of smoker's smoking regularly by the age of 19. When President Obama signed the bill on June 22nd, his intentions were to protect American children from the addictions associated with cigarettes. With less nicotine in each cigarette, the plan is for the new bill to start slowly curing America's addiction to tobacco and the life threatening consequences it causes.

Matthew Parker, of Murray is one of those smokers.

"I have smoked for almost ten years now, a pack a day to a pack and a half a day smoker."

Parker understands the reason for the new law, and he agrees with it. However, he does not see himself kicking the habit because of the new regulations.

"I mean, if my smoking habits are affected it wouldn't be by a law. Kentucky's already raised taxes on cigarettes anyway, and I continue to smoke."

Doctor Chris Trzepacz isn't surprised by Parker's response. Trzepacz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Murray State University. He understands the reaction that some smokers may have.

"The changes they proposed in this bill to the packaging will certainly help. It's not going to change someone who's already established themselves as a smoker. These types of warnings really aren't going to have any affect on them. They're still going to smoke."

The new bill bans candy-flavored cigarettes and light' cigarettes. There will also be larger, more detailed warning labels on each cigarette package.

According to the American Heart Association, nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest to break. When a person smokes a cigarette, the body responds immediately to the nicotine in the smoke. The chemical causes a short-term increase in blood pressure, heart rate and the flow of blood from the heart. Doctor Trzepacz is aware of the addiction to nicotine that smokers deal with. He suggests that less nicotine in each cigarette could be worse for heavy smokers.

"The addiction is as strong as it is to cocaine or heroin. If they're not getting it from a cigarette that has lower nicotine then chances are they are going to need to smoke more cigarettes. So they will have to buy more and that would overall be a bad thing, because it's not the nicotine that's causing cancers, it's the other 4,000 other chemicals that are presents within a cigarette that are impacting the development of cancer. So decreasing nicotine it may affect your addiction level but it may increase your chances of getting cancer in the long run."

Tobacco has historically been important to Kentucky agriculturally and economically. Unfortunately, it also seems to be the cause of a high cancer rate in the state.

"The rate of smoking in Kentucky is the highest in the country. Rate of lung cancer is fifty percent higher then the national average. If you're a long term smoker, you have probably about a twenty five percent chance of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer is a very poor prognosis once you get it. Kentucky overall is probably the worst state cancer-wise in the country."

Smoker, Matthew Parker is aware of the health risks, but isn't in agreement that the government should control his vice.

"The idea of being regulated to do something or to not do something, I have maybe some issues with that, but I don't think there's any debate anymore on the health issue. So if there is any way this could affect a child's future as a nonsmoker, then I think it's a fantastic thing."

If the new regulations do what are they are intended to for children then what can be done to help current smokers quit? Doctor Trzepacz understands quitting isn't as easy as nonsmokers make it sound. Laws and regulations might not be the answer. However, he suggests that heavy smokers, regardless of how long they've had the habit, should look outside and inside their homes for support. He suggests smokers seek help from friends, family and coworkers. Trzepacz says support groups can also prove helpful.

For WKMS news, I'm Caleb Campbell.