Robert Dannenhoffer

As we consider ways to improve our health in the New Year, please consider quitting smoking and vaping. Of all the things you can do to improve your health, quitting smoking and vaping tops the list.

Despite emerging clues about the cause of vape-related illness and deaths, the cold fact remains: Breathing anything other than clean air into your lungs is harmful. Let’s not be lulled by the tobacco industry into thinking vape products are safe. There are other ways we can help our friends, family and neighbors quit for good that don’t include inhaling dangerous aerosol.

Both the state and federal governments have responded to the many hospitalizations and deaths associated with vaping. The final form of these regulations is not clear, but it is clear that vaping can be dangerous and the best thing is to quit nicotine products once and for all.

Governor Brown’s executive order provides additional support for those wanting to quit.

Anyone in Oregon can get free counseling and FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy medication, like patches or gum, through the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line. Quitting addiction is hard. Studies show that receiving medication and counseling makes people twice as likely to succeed in their efforts to quit.

Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for both youth and adults. People can reach the Quit Line through the following contacts:

  • English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or
  • Spanish: 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-35692) or
  • Alaska Indians and Native Americans: 1-800-784-8669, then press “7”
  • TTY: 1-877-777-6534

Here’s a critical and misunderstood fact: E-cigarettes and vape are not safe ways to quit smoking. Vape products, like Juul, contain nicotine — significant quantities, in most cases. One Juul pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. These products are just another way for the tobacco industry to maintain addictions and hold on to customers. In fact, more than half of people who vape also smoke cigarettes.

Finally, we must continue to push for ways to protect kids from vaping — and all tobacco. E-cigarettes and other vapes are highly addictive, and young people are using them at shocking rates: One in four Oregon 11th graders use e-cigarettes, a number that climbed nearly 80% in just two years. Adolescent brains are particularly susceptible to addiction, and kids who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to start smoking as their peers who don’t vape.

DPHN has partnered with CHI Mercy and The Blue Zones Project-Umpqua to bring This Is Quitting, a youth and young adult, text-based vaping cessation to Douglas County. This free program, developed by the Truth initiative, helps build the confidence and skills needed and provides motivation and support to help participants quit for good. The messaging is tailored to age and product usage and incorporates messages from real youth and young adults who have attempted to or successfully quit vaping. This Is Quitting was launched nationwide in January of this year and has already helped over 60,000 young people. We are excited to be one of the first communities to launch the program locally and hope to have just as much success. Those interested in enrolling need only text “VAPEFREEDC” to 88709.

Please join our efforts in Douglas County to help people quit and protect our community from the tobacco industry. We’ve stood up to the industry before, passing strong indoor clean air laws and raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21. We can hold the industry accountable again – all the while, making sure the best support is available to help people quit for good.

Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer is the Health Officer and the Public Health Administrator for Douglas County. In addition, he has been a practicing pediatrician at Aviva Health (formerly Umpqua Community Health Center) and has been in practice for 39 years. He is a past president of the Oregon Medical Association and was named a Smoke Free hero in 2012.

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