Low Utah tobacco use rates are still too high, health experts say
Some of that is due to health campaigns, but Hanson said, "Most of that has come from the fact that people have recognized that smoking is a filthy, dirty habit and nothing good comes of it." He said smokers have been kicked off airplanes, out of restaurants and public parks, hotel rooms and rental cars, and many families force smokers to get their fix outdoors, despite weather conditions.
"Society doesn't like it," he said. "It's no longer the cool thing to do, and people have figured that out."
The trouble is, the longer a person smokes, or the earlier he or she starts, the harder it becomes to quit.
Hanson said human biology and genetics have come into play, indicating a person's predisposition to addiction. And while there are pharmacologic helps available — nicotine gum, transdermal patches and prescription medications that help to alter the brain's response to the addictive properties of tobacco — quitting depends largely upon a person's motivation.
In the mid-1990s, approximately 17 percent of teenagers in Utah smoked cigarettes. Today, according to 2013 health department data, only 4.4 percent of youths smoke. Less than 10 percent of adults in Utah smoke.
"That's something we're really proud of," Bramwell said.
However, electronic cigarettes have become a concern, as more and more teens are experimenting with them than with traditional cigarettes. Long-term effects of the electronic or vapor cigarettes remain unknown, and the devices have not been researched as effective cessation tools.
The state of Utah offers public programs to aid in smoking cessation, including an anonymous help line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, where people can call to get access to counseling or other help, including medication and nicotine replacement therapy.
"Every day I hear of people who do quit. It can be done. It's an amazing accomplishment, and the number of smokers in Utah continues to go down," Bramwell said.
While it may take some people multiple tries to quit, he said, "it is a lot easier and less costly to prevent health problems than to treat them and that is what we want to help people to do."
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