In recognition of World Tobacco Day the Volusia DOH is calling attention to the impact of secondhand smoke.
While the number of Volusia County and Florida tobacco-related cancer deaths rates decreased between 2012 and 2016, the number of Volusia County tobacco-related cancer deaths was higher than the rest of the state, according to the Florida Department of Health in Volusia.
However, those affected aren't just smokers themselves.
A recent survey found that nearly 60% of Volusia County youth ages 11 to 17 reported being exposed to secondhand cigarette or electronic vapor smoke in the past 30 days — nearly 8% higher than the state average. The primary source of exposure for children is in their home.
“While we all know that smoking is terrible for your health, what many of us don’t realize is that secondhand smoke can cause all of the same cancers and diseases that smoking can," Kristen Mialki, Florida Department of Health in Volusia County Tobacco Program manager, said. "Tobacco smoke has over 7,000 chemicals and compounds, hundreds of which are toxic and at least 70 are known to cause cancer. When you smoke around other people you are forcing them to breathe in these chemicals and putting them at risk. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion.”
To assist in the effort to prevent secondhand smoke, the DOH-Volusia’s Tobacco Prevention Program has been working with property managers and owners of multi-unit housing to help them adopt smoke-free policies. According to Tobacco Free Florida, more than 75 condominium associations have adopted smoke-free policies in recent years.
But when it comes to personal use, simply quitting isn't that easy.
John Walburg, manager of the Halifax respiratory therapy department, knows this firsthand. His stepfather was a smoker for years. Walburg said he would plead, ask and encourage him to stop. But the common answer he received from him and other people he has worked with is that they will eventually die regardless, so it might as well be from doing something they enjoy.
However, Walburg said people don't see the ramifications of smoking. He said it is not simply lung cancer but the potential of other serious problems, from heart and peripheral vascular diseases to diabetes and emphysema. Walburg said more and more smokers are being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease earlier in age, even in their 30s.
"I know a lot of people that are smokers just don't want to give it up," Walburg said. "They want to continue smoking and they don't feel they're harming their bodies."