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Amy B., VT

Because my parents smoked when I was a child (my mother managed to quit when I was at UVM) and because no other single issue could prevent more death and disease, my career in Public Health has led me to my focus on tobacco control: prevention, protection from secondhand smoke, & cessation for everyone.  I work throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and at the statewide level so no one becomes addicted and all those who use are connected to effective resources that will help them to quit for good.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful in protecting my dad from tobacco’s horrible effects. Although my mom quit, my dad continued to smoke, mostly in the closet, through his 60’s.  Just before Thanksgiving 2020, my dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.  The tumor was so big, it took up nearly his entire lung. His partner, a long time nurse in a cardio-thoracic practice, said that was the biggest tumor she had ever seen.  Chemotherapy and radiation have been successful in shrinking the inoperable tumor, but we all know it’s temporary.  It is my understanding that small cell lung cancer tumors will grow back.  Of course, his diagnosis and prognosis are complicated by the fact that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 6 months before.

As you can imagine, this is devastating news for our family.  We do not all live near each other.  His partner is thankfully a nurse, but his care is intense and emotionally draining.  Every cough he develops causes him panic that the tumor has grown again. He’s at risk for pneumonia and been hospitalized for it once this winter.  COVID risk has kept them isolated from family and friends at a time when they are needed the most. 

And yet, I know – actually everyone knows – lung cancer is almost entirely preventable by addressing tobacco control more completely.  National programs through the CDC and statewide programs like Vermont’s Comprehensive Tobacco Program need to be funded at higher levels.  This is true now more than ever as we’re hearing reports of young people beginning their nicotine addiction through vaping and then transitioning to commercial cigarettes as a means to quit their vape addition – substituting one addiction with unclear health outcomes for one in which ½ of all people who use it will die prematurely. 

$11 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention would provide more intensive and effective prevention strategies with young people and more support for and awareness of cessation services.  That would go a long way to protecting our communities from disease and death – especially lung cancer.  Until that point, we continue to be vastly outmatched by the tobacco and vape industry and my work remains an uphill battle.

Thank you for your time.

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