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May 31, 2012, declared World No Tobacco Day in Washington County

Panel of experts discuss dangers of tobacco and how the tobacco industry operates

May 31, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Dr. Abdul Waheed, left, Jon Freeman, center, and Andy Smith, right, lead a panel discussion Thursday about the dangerous effects of tobacco on a person's health.
By Caleb Calhoun, Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline issued a proclamation, and a panel of experts discussed the dangers of tobacco and how the tobacco industry operates during World No Tobacco Day Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve seen family members and friends die horrible deaths from smoking,” Cline said at the event held in the Newman Auditorium  of Robinwood Professional Center. 

The proclamation declared May 31, 2012, as World No Tobacco Day in Washington County. Cline said local governments have a responsibility to raise awareness about the problems that can be caused from tobacco.

“We need to continue through the Washington County Public Schools to educate people and let them make decisions,” he said. “We also need to give local organizations the tools to help raise awareness to these issues.”

The panel included Andy Smith, chairman of the Tobacco Free Coalition; Jon Freeman, a former smoker; and Dr. Abdul Waheed, pulmonary specialist with Pulmonary Consultants of Hagerstown.

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Smith talked about the dangers of not just cigarettes but other tobacco products.

“I tell tobacco users, ‘You are a drug addict,’” he said. “This product is controlling a part of our community and a part of our lives that it shouldn’t be.”

According to Smith, one of the present dangers is how the tobacco industry has now found ways to market its products other than just cigarettes to young people, despite having effects that can be just as harmful.

“A 35-minute hookah (pipe) session equals a pack of cigarettes,” he said. “If you know these things, and you’re well-informed, hopefully, you’ll make well-informed choices.”

A hookah confiscated from an underage smoker who got nicotine poisoning from it was on display at the event, as were fact sheets, pictures and brochures that recounted the dangers of tobacco.

Freeman talked about how he was able to quit smoking and how it has helped him.

“I quit because I wanted to do it,” he said. “I may have an urge to have a cigarette, but it will pass.”
Freeman said that he has helped himself in many ways by quitting.

“I have saved about $2,600 on smoking,” he said. “But, most importantly, is how many years I have saved.”

Waheed talked about people he deals with every day who smoke and the health dangers that can come with it.

“Every day I see patients who walk in my office short of breath,” he said. “I wonder why somebody would smoke cigarettes to put themselves in this position.”

Smokers might not have anything detected in their lungs at first and think they are fine, even though some damage might already exist, Waheed said.

“Many smokers want excuses to keep smoking,” he said. “Lung disease, heart disease and lung cancer can all be caused by cigarette smoking.”

Earl Stoner, Washington County health officer, and Mary McPherson, manager of the Tobacco Use Prevention Program, also  talked about the dangers of smoking and fighting the marketing schemes of the tobacco industry.

Smith said that everybody should care about the health problems from smoking, even if it does not affect them directly.

“The state of Maryland spends $2 billion a year on tobacco-related illnesses,” he said. “So if you don’t care, don’t complain about your taxes being high.”

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