CDC brings smoke-free initiative message to Eastern Kentucky

Published: May. 15, 2019 at 6:19 PM EDT
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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly 25 percent of Kentuckians smoke.

In Appalachia, health officials say the rates are even higher.

To help others better understand the dangers of smoking, Amanda, a speaker from the CDC's "Tips From Former Smokers Campaign" shared the struggle she faced during her pregnancy at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health on Wednesday.

She says while picking up a cigarette as a fifth grader, she never pictured herself becoming an addict.

In an interview for Issues and Answers, WYMT's Steve Hensley asked Amanda how many cigarettes she smoked in just one day.

"By the end of high school, I would say I was close to a pack a day," she said.

As her journey to college began, a tiny blessing came Amanda's way. Smoking, however, rushed her baby's birth much too early. Her daughter was born two months early and weighed only three pounds.

Only feeling mom's touch as a diaper was changed, "mommy and me time" was limited for the two.

"It's a really painful place to be in the NICU with a sick baby," she said.

Department for Public Health's Senior Deputy Commissioner Dr. Connie Gayle White says several conditions increase as a smoker.

"Everything from COPD, heart disease, stroke ... multiple types of cancers and all the complications of pregnancy. I spent 20 years, before I came to the State Department for Public Health, as an OBGYN physician I saw the miscarriage rate among the population," Dr. White said.

Attesting to the struggles of quitting, Amanda's best piece of advice is to never stop trying to quit.

In efforts to support all addiction stories, health departments look now to understanding underlying issues.

"Is it because of a habit they developed at a very young age? Or is it because they are in a very stressful situation and they are self-medicating with nicotine?" Kentucky River District Health Department's Public Health Director Scott Lockard asked.

If you or someone you know needs support or help to quit this type of addiction, contact your local health department for offered resources.

To learn more, you can watch Issues and Answers Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m.

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