Speaker tells staff at the Akron Children’s Hospital they should inform their patients about the dangers of smoking and offer resources to quit


Speaker educates employees at Akron Children’s Hospital

By Samantha Phillips

sphillips@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

Dr. Jonathon Winickoff urged clinical staff at the Akron Children’s Hospital on Wednesday to provide their patients who want to quit smoking with access to appropriate resources.

Every patient should be asked about their smoking habits, be informed of the risks and offered nicotine patches, gum or lozenges and other forms of assistance if they want it – especially when that person is pregnant or has children, he said.

Most people know about the effects of first- or second-hand smoke, so Dr. Winickoff, a pediatrician with Massachusetts General Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, talked mostly about third-hand smoke, or nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke.

Those chemicals can be re-emitted in the air and create toxic pollutants that linger after someone smokes, he said.

Children who live in homes with smokers are more at risk to get cancer and other diseases and develop disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, even if the family member smokes away from the child, Dr. Winickoff said. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of death and disease in the United States.

“We need a totally smoke-free environment for children to be healthy,” he said.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to third-hand smoke experience withdrawal symptoms when they go to smoke-free zones such as school, Dr. Winickoff said.

The doctor encouraged the audience to talk to their legislators and advocate for the tobacco and e-cigarette sales age limit to be increased to 21, and for smoke-free home policies.

Ohio cities, including Columbus and Cleveland, ban people under 21 from buying tobacco products, and Dr. Winickoff hopes Youngstown will follow suit.

“I would love for parents and the community of Youngstown to band together ... so we can start protecting high-school kids from ever starting to use those products and make sure people understand there are no safe tobacco products,” he said.

Raising the tobacco and e-cigarette sale age limit won’t stop every kid from getting those products, but it if it stops some of them it’s worth it, he said.

“Take charge of your children’s future, rather than letting the tobacco industry take charge of their futures,” he said.

Dr. Winickoff warned “anything you try to do will be subverted by the deep pockets of the tobacco industry.”

That industry is finding a way to make money off younger people by popularizing vaping, which is nearly as harmful as smoking tobacco, he said.

Vape “juice” contains carcinogens, toxic plastic, and flavorants that weren’t meant to be inhaled. It’s too soon to know the long-term effects, he said.

A big concern in communities is a new nicotine product called Juul, which is similar to vapes, and popular with high-school kids, he explained.

A Juul looks like a flash drive, yet contains as much nicotine as entire pack of cigarettes. The $3 device gives kids 300 “puffs,” he said.

“It doesn’t take many hits to get addicted,” he said. “This is rampant. You can buy them on Amazon, they aren’t being restricted. And these kids can be addicted to nicotine for life.”

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