Solving the Case of How to Quit: Home Invasion

“Classification of tobacco as a drug should be avoided at all costs.”

1974 British American Tobacco memo

After three tobacco cessation classes, Gulf County Sheriff Joe Nugent was hanging on.

So was his staff.

He and almost a dozen of his support personnel, investigators and deputies, along with other city and county employees, were halfway through their series of tobacco cessation classes.

And they hadn’t lost that focused intensity they all brought to the initial session, either. They were still intent on solving this case of how to quit using tobacco.

After the second class, the group received their first prescription for Chantix, a prescription medication used to help people quit smoking.

They immediately set what they hoped to be their individual quit dates and began planning their strategies.

As reported in an earlier article (see Solving the Case of How to Quit: Identifying the Criminal in the June 18, 2009 issue of The Star), this local group had several reasons for wanting to quit smoking and dipping.

Among those reasons, readily admitted in the first class, was that they could not do their jobs as well as they used to in terms of physical activity.

“I’m 50, and I can’t physically hold up like I should be able to,” Nugent said. “And I know that 90 percent of the problem is from smoking.”

Harmful even to Dogs

“We believe that the Auerbach work proves beyond reasonable doubt that fresh whole cigarette smoke is carcinogenic to dog lungs and therefore it is highly likely that it is carcinogenic to human lungs.”

(April 3, 1970 Gallagher memo by company research manager to the head of Gallagher, Ltd., American Tobacco’s British-based sister company)

But just as the effects of smoking are bad on Nugent himself, the effects of his second-hand smoke (also called Environmental Tobacco Smoke or ETS) are dangerous to his family members – and that includes Amber, the Sheriff’s bloodhound, if she happens to be around cigarette smoke while with Nugent.

Amber, Nugent’s personal dog, is the tracking bloodhound for the Gulf County Sheriff’s Department and only Nugent handles her. But his 35-year smoking habit has begun eroding his work with her.

Nugent trains with Gulf Correctional Institute’s K9 unit and on his own, working Amber as much as three or four times a week. But that means he has to run with her, in what amounts to cross-country running, because he has to hang on to Amber’s long leash at all costs.

“I can’t let go of that lead when we’re out working because she’s single-minded. She won’t stop or come back, and you can’t call her back.

“I can’t keep up with her any more so I don’t work her as much as I used to or should,” he said.

Captain Ricky Tolbert, another of the Sheriff’s Department K9 unit officers and investigators, is also in the class.

Since his canine partner, Hak, is basically with Tolbert around the clock at work and at home, Tolbert is determined to stop smoking – for his partner’s health as well as his own.

It should be noted that no one smokes inside either the Nugent or Tolbert residences and none of the officers smokes in county or city vehicles.

“No Risk to Second-Hand Smoke”

There is absolutely no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure.

That’s what the Surgeon General’s report on second-hand smoke found three years ago. Even brief exposure can be dangerous.

“Let’s worry about the chemical constituents of smoke. There’s a real problem.”

Dr. Helmut Wakeham, vice president and director of research and development, Philip Morris, in a memo to Philip Morris, Inc., president Howard “Hugh” Cullman, explaining that particles coming out of filters in the cigarettes were not a major problem, January 12, 1962

Concerns for one’s pet – or partners, in the case of police K9 dogs – is a new tact that recently has come into play to help people decide to stop smoking. If second-hand smoke harms peoples’ pets, they may try harder to quit.

It’s something that very few people think about, especially smokers, but is rapidly becoming one of the big selling points in the battle to stop smoking.

New studies are showing that pets get dosed with poisons from tobacco smoke in two ways: through second-hand smoke and by ingesting the actual smoke particles when they groom themselves, which is being labeled third-hand smoke.

Third Hand as Bad

This new term refers to the poisons in tobacco smoke that remain on clothing, fabrics or hair, and are breathed in or ingested by the non-smokers. No one knew.

Cats and dogs can get all kinds of cancer from second-hand smoke just like the rest of the family.

Birds living in homes with tobacco smoke develop severe breathing problems.

If people smoke in the barn while tending their horses – really not a good idea for so many reasons – the horses are also in danger of getting lung cancer.

Several studies have emerged over the past eight years that confirm the dangers of second- and third-hand smoke to animals.

Dogs in smoking households have a 60 percent greater risk of lung cancer. Long-nosed dogs are twice as likely to develop nasal cancer if they live with smokers, according to two studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, 2001, by researchers at Colorado State University.

Unfortunately, dogs with short or medium noses are not immune to the effects of second-hand smoke either. Those dogs, according to the studies, have a higher risk of lung cancer.

The CSU researchers also found toxins from cigarette smoke in dogs’ urine, confirmed by a separate 2008 study at Tufts University veterinary school.

In another Tufts study, veterinarians found that cats whose owners smoked were three times as likely to develop lymphoma, the most common feline cancer.

And a 2007 study at the University of Minnesota showed that cats living with smokers also have nicotine and other toxins in their urine.

But most notably the studies showed that cats exposed to second-hand smoke are particularly susceptible to a specific cancer of the mouth because they groom so much that they lick and swallow carcinogens – from tobacco smoke – that land on their fur.

What about Children

“Children can leave the room if they are bothered by smoke.”

Reminded that infants cannot leave, he responded, “When they are older, they can crawl away.”

Mike Harper, former CEO, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco answering a shareholder’s question in 1996 about smoking around children (Save Lives, Not Tobacco” the Coalition for Accountability Environmental Tobacco Smoke Fact Sheet, p. 4, 1997)

And the licking of things is also a heretofore undetected source of smoke carcinogens for babies, too.

An article in Pediatrics Magazine in the beginning of this year highlighted the risk to pregnant women and babies of third-hand smoke.

The article’s lead researcher was Professor Jonathan Winickoff of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Young children, he said, are particularly at risk from smoke carcinogens because they are so likely to breathe in while in close proximity to fabrics, or even to lick and suck furniture and clothing.

But as was pointed out in the article, very few smokers surveyed by the researchers were even aware that poisons from smoking do not disperse in the atmosphere and surroundings but instead linger on fabrics or hair.

Why is it Harmful?

But why is second- and third-hand smoke so dangerous?

Second-hand smoke is a mixture of the smoke released into the air by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers.

It is involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers, lingers in the air hours after the cigarettes have been stubbed out, and can cause or worsen so many health problems, like cancer, respiratory infections and asthma, to name just three.

Here’s what it does.

* Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer.

The smoke your friends blow on you, laughing while they blow it straight into your face, is a known human (Class A) carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals (that have been identified so far), with at least 250 of those identified as harmful (by the National Toxicology Program). At least 50 of them are known to cause cancer.

There are two parts to second-hand smoke: sidestream smoke (the smoke that drifts into the air from the burning end of the cigarette), and mainstream smoke (what the smoker breathes out).

Sidestream smoke is generated at a lower temperature and under different conditions than mainstream smoke, so it actually contains higher concentrations of many of the 4,800-plus toxins currently identified in cigarette smoke.

So when non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, they inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as smokers.

* Second-hand smoke causes heart disease.

Breathing second-hand smoke even for a few minutes can have immediate bad effects on your cardiovascular system by interfering with the normal functions of the heart, blood and vascular system in ways that drastically increase the risk of heart attack.

You may be in great shape, with low cholesterol and good arteries. But according to scientific data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Surgeon General, just a short exposure to second-hand smoke can cause your blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of your blood vessels, decrease your coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce your heart rate variability. In other words, breathing second-hand smoke sets you up for a potential heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of adverse effects.

* Second-hand smoke causes acute respiratory effects.

With most of the 4,800-plus chemicals in cigarette available to you through second-hand smoke, it’s no wonder that second-hand smoke can quickly irritate and damage the lining of your airways. Even brief exposure can trigger respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheezing and breathlessness.

Brief exposure to second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in children with asthma. People who already have asthma or other respiratory conditions are at especially high risk for problems from second-hand smoke.

* Second-hand smoke can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other health problems in infants and children.

Children exposed to second-hand smoke are also at an increased risk for acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma.

Parents who smoke around their children cause respiratory symptoms and stunted lung growth in their children.

Smoke Free

“It is apparent that the effects of ETS on others is now the most powerful antismoking weapon being employed against the industry.” (Phillip Morris, 1987, Bates No. 2050864094/4097)

A smoke-free environment is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke. However, separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, even ventilating buildings cannot eliminate the exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, according to the Office of the Surgeon General.

Even the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the pre-eminent, standard-setting body on ventilation issues in the U.S., has concluded that ventilation technology cannot be relied on to completely control health risks from second-hand smoke exposure.

In fact, operation of a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system can distribute second-hand smoke throughout a building. Conventional air cleaning systems can remove large particles, but not the smaller particles or the gases found in second-hand smoke.

The Surgeon General estimated that living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

An article published in July 2005 in the world-renowned medical journal Lancet indicated that private research conducted by the Philip Morris cigarette company in the 1980s showed that second-hand smoke was highly toxic. Yet the company suppressed the findings during the next two decades.

So the Surgeon General’s report was right: there is absolutely no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure – to any living thing, especially children, pets and other people living with a smoker.


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