Every year on May 31st, we recognize World No Tobacco Day. Created in 1987 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the observance seeks to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. Additionally, this annual celebration informs the public on the dangers of tobacco use, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim improve their health and protect future generations from addiction.
Brittini knows first-hand the negative impact that tobacco can have on your life. Growing up in a home with smokers, she remembers picking up her first cigarette around the age of 12. “I started sneaking cigarettes when I was babysitting which eventually led to me becoming a full-time smoker by 13 years old.”
It is an addiction that stuck with her for the next 30 years despite multiple quitting attempts. “I have tried to quit seriously three times. The first time was in 2014 when I began my wellness journey and was diagnosed with a disorder that was causing a thickening of my vocal cords. I made it about 6 weeks and then my best friend was diagnosed with Leukemia. While trying to support her, I started smoking again to cope with the stress.”
Brittini tried to quit for a second time in February of 2020 after her mother died of a stroke. “I wanted to do anything I could do to improve my health. Unfortunately, after about 6 weeks of success, COVID-19 hit, and the fear and anxiety I felt led to a panic attack that sent me to the ER. I left the hospital and picked up a pack of cigarettes.”
The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever for our nation to confront the tobacco problem. Smoking weakens the immune system and increases the risk of respiratory infections. Many of the underlying health conditions that place individuals at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19 are often caused by tobacco use.
The Lung Association is working to make sure as many smokers have access to the help they need them to quit and are proud to support H.R. 2125, the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase access to a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit for the Medicaid population, which smokes at a rate twice as high as those with private insurance. Providing this population with the resources to quit and helping them succeed will improve health equity in the United States.
Quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of their life. “My mom’s passing was soul crushing to me. I have two adult children and though I know that I will pass away eventually, I want to save them from that pain as long as I possibly can, and I don’t want it to be because of tobacco.”
So, at the beginning of 2021, Brittini decided to give quitting another shot. But this time she did extensive research before beginning her quit journey. She looked online for services that would help her understand her patterns and why she used tobacco to cope with stress. Her search led her to the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine and Freedom From Smoking® program.
“They taught me to incorporate meditation, mindfulness, and essential oils to manage my anxiety as I worked to create new pathways in my brain to build coping skills.” With the help of Freedom from Smoking and the resources provided, Brittini has been tobacco-free for four months and is feeling healthier than ever. “It feels fabulous to be smoke-free! I can breathe better, I can cheer on my kid’s college volleyball games, and I can actually walk/exercise without getting winded.” Though it has been challenging to manage my anxiety without cigarettes, having a supportive family and work environment has been instrumental in my success.”
Quitting tobacco can be tough but it’s easier with support. The American Lung Association has lots of options to help smokers quit smoking for good. Visit our Helpline to learn more and make today the day you “commit to quit.”
Blog last updated: May 31, 2021