TCSG ANNOUNCES NEW PROJECT
ON TOBACCO & THE ELDERLY
TO SERVE MICHIGAN'S OLDER PERSONS
The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG) of Ann Arbor announced today a new project to develop and support a statewide effort to mobilize elder rights groups to reduce the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. The project is supported by the Michigan Department of Public Health and the federal ASSIST program.
"The statewide Tobacco and the Elderly project is the first such program in the nation," said Jim Bergman of TCSG. He continued, "tobacco directly affects the elderly in three ways:
- Elderly smokers and former smokers pay a terrible personal price due to tobacco- related diseases and death.
- Elderly non-smokers are directly affected by the diseases caused by second-hand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS), particularly those elders with respiratory diseases.
- Elders are deeply concerned and affected by the tobacco-related diseases that afflict and cause the death of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
ALMOST 16,000 MICHIGANIANS DIE ANNUALLY FROM TOBACCO
Nationally, over 434,000 people die annually from tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, and an additional 53,000 or more persons die from the effects of second-hand smoke. In Michigan, nearly 14,000 smokers die every year from tobacco-related diseases, and an additional 1,900 nonsmokers die annually from exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco use results in $2.6 billion annually in health care costs from illness and lost productivity due to premature death in Michigan.
"Tobacco is a children's issue as far as when people become addicted, since almost 90% of current adult smokers started by the time they were 18 -- the legal age for retailers to sell cigarettes," said Bergman. "But, tobacco is an older persons' issue because that is when most of the pain and suffering occurs, due to the late on-set of many tobacco-related diseases," he said.
Further, "with the current focus in Congress on Medicare, it is astounding that, of $87 billion spent last year by Medicare on inpatient hospital care, about $16 billion went to treatment of smoking-attributable diseases," said Bergman, quoting from a report released in May, 1994 by former Secretary of Health & Human Services Joseph Califano.
ALMOST 1/2 MILLION OLDER MICHIGANIANS ARE SMOKERS
Nationally, approximately 13% of the over 65 population currently are smokers, equaling about 4 million older Americans. Of the over 65 population, almost 15% of men and almost 12% of women are smokers. At that rate, about 143,000 of Michigan's total of over 1.1 million 65 and over population are currently smokers. Of the approximately 1.2 million Michiganians who are between 50 and 64, about 26% are currently smokers, equaling about 312,000 smokers. Thus, over 455,000 older Michiganians are currently smokers, or about 19.5% of the 50 and over population.
While most older persons who smoke have been doing so for over 40 or 50 years at least, most of these smokers wish they could quit. A U.S. National Health Interview Survey found that about 70% of current adult smokers would like to quit, and about 34% try to quit each year, but only about 2.5% are successful. Interestingly, older Americans were the least likely adults to want to quit smoking, but even among these smokers, 50% to 60% said they wanted to quit. The addictiveness of tobacco is the primary reason for the inability to quit, among all age groups.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF QUITTING SMOKING ARE IMMEDIATE
The health benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate for older persons, as well as younger adults and youth. Recent studies have shown that within days of quitting, the health of the former smoker improves, and it continues to improve as the weeks, months and years go by. The likelihood of former smokers having tobacco-related diseases also decreases the longer the person refrains from smoking, particularly heart and lung diseases, as well as risks of stroke and cancer.
SECOND-HAND SMOKE SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD FOR ELDERLY
Bergman stated that "the Tobacco and the Elderly project will focus on non-smokers as well as smokers because the health effects of second-hand smoke on non-smokers are so serious. Smoke-free environments are critical to the health of all older and younger persons, but are particularly important for persons with heart disease, allergies or respiratory illnesses, such as emphysema or asthma."
TOBACCO IS AN INTERGENERATIONAL ISSUE
Further, most elders and parents don't want their children and grandchildren to start smoking, even if they themselves are smokers, because they know how seriously addictive and harmful smoking is. For older persons, these feelings are compounded by the fear of seeing their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren suffer and die from cancer, lung or heart diseases before they have the opportunity for full lives.
The Tobacco and the Elderly project of TCSG will develop a statewide network of elder rights advocates who are interested in working to reduce tobacco use and exposure to ETS among older and younger persons. Further, materials will be developed and disseminated on tobacco issues of concern to the elderly, including materials on health issues, tobacco cessation, tobacco advertising and sales to minors, second-hand smoke and related topics. TCSG will also work with local organizations to increase their knowledge about tobacco and the elderly issues.