Did you ever wonder how scientists develop medications to help people stop smoking? High School Junior Ameya Deshmukh has been wondering about that since he was 7 years old. Because his parents work in science labs, he began learning about basic science from an early age. Now at age 16, he just won the first place NIDA Addiction Science Award at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
For his project, Ameya decided to search a database of 10,000 molecules to find one that will bind to nicotine receptors in the brain. Those are the cells that nicotine molecules attach to and then cause their addictive effects in the brain. If we can learn how to link up the right molecules with the right receptors—say, by developing a special medication with that would go right to nicotine’s “sweet spot” in the brain—then we could block the pleasure that people get from cigarettes. A lot of lives might be saved, since 440,000 people in this country die every year from tobacco-related diseases. This includes 35,000 who die from exposure to second-hand smoke. UGH!
Because identifying the right molecule can be like finding a needle in a haystack, Ameya used what is known as “rational drug design.” He first selected molecules based on previous research. Then he used computerized models to narrow the list of potential compounds even more. Finally, he tested the short list of molecules on human cells to identify which ones would bind to the receptors. With more research, Ameya’s work could point to new directions in developing medications to help people quit smoking.
When talking to the judges, Ameya stressed how important it was to develop these medications. In 2009, 20.1 percent of 12th-graders, 13.1 percent of 10th-graders, and 6.5 percent of 8th-graders said they smoked in the month before the survey. Unfortunately, many will get addicted. The hard part is quitting, as seen in the nearly 35 million people who make a serious attempt to quit smoking each year, with most starting up again within a week. So promising new medications are sorely needed.
NIDA’s Addiction Science award is given at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which was in San Jose this year. For more information on NIDA’s 3 winners, see NIDA’s news release at http://www.nida.nih.gov/newsroom/10/NR5-14.html
Are there serious public health problems that you could address in a science project?
Many teens and their parents spend money on clothes, haircuts, braces, perfumes, athletic gear and sports memberships, all to try and look their best. But smoking cigarettes can cancel out all these hard-earned efforts. Besides diseases like cancer and emphysema, smoking can cause:
- Yellow-brown teeth and bad breath
- Discolored skin on your fingers
- Smelly clothes and hair (Not good on a date!)
- Loss of sense of smell and taste (So much for your favorite foods)
- Lower stamina for exercise and sports
- Deeper wrinkles than average for a person’s age
- Uncontrollable coughing fits and mucous overload
The list of negative effects goes on and on. We told you in an earlier post that 75 percent of high school seniors prefer to date someone who doesn’t smoke. This list makes it easy to understand why!
Ready to Quit? It’s never too late—or too early!—to quit smoking. Quitting isn’t easy, but resources are out there to help. In fact, the CDC has several resources on quitting smoking that can help you out. The guide offers specific tips on what to do on the day you quit and ways to distract yourself in the first, hardest days after you toss out the pack and lighters. For instance, when cravings hit, you can:
- Carry things to put in your mouth, like gum, hard candy, or toothpicks.
- Keep busy by going to the movies, bicycling, walking the dog, playing video games, or calling a friend.
- Go places where you’re not allowed to smoke, like the movies or the mall.
When you quit, treat yourself to a reward, and pay for it with the money you used to spend on cigarettes. To talk to someone about quitting, call the national toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). If you don’t smoke (good for you!) but you may have a friend or sibling who does, so send them this blog post to encourage them to take the positive, life-saving step of quitting.
The average price for a pack of cigarettes (PDF, 57.91 KB) nationwide is around $5.50—more or less depending on the State you live in. The spending calculator lets you enter the number of packs smoked per week as well as the price per pack. Then, it calculates the monthly and yearly cost.
Let’s say you smoke one pack a week at the average price of $5.50 per pack—that’s $22 a month and $264 a year. If you smoke two packs a week, the numbers double—$44 a month and more than $500 a year! I’m sure you can think of better things to do with $500....
According to NIDA research, nicotine in cigarettes is addictive, and most people smoke tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine. Once people get addicted, they need more and more of the drug to get the same effect. That means smoking leads to more smoking, which leads to more money for the cigarette companies and less for you—not to mention the hit on your health.
When you quit, treat yourself to a reward, and pay for it with the money you used to spend on cigarettes. To talk to someone about quitting, call the national toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Have you ever heard friends say they’d like to quit smoking, but they are afraid they’ll gain weight if they stop?
Some people do experience a slight weight gain after they quit smoking. It could be that smokers trying to quit may reach for food for the same reasons they used cigarettes—to deal with stress or boredom or to be social.
The good news is that research shows that by 6 months, many people start losing this extra weight (typically less than 10 pounds) as they adjust to becoming non-smokers.
When you think about the many health benefits of quitting smoking, it’s easy to see far more pros than cons, tobacco use being the number one preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.
Here are some ways you can keep weight gain to a minimum while making the healthy life choice to leave those cigarettes behind.
Choose healthy foods. Fill your plate with fruits and veggies and lean meats like fish or grilled chicken.
Get moving! Exercise reduces stress and boredom, increases your metabolism, and can even help you get a better night’s sleep. Consider joining a class with a friend to help keep you motivated.
Drink more water. Skip the sugary soft drinks and make sure you drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day.
Watch your portions. Many people eat far more than the recommended serving size, and many restaurants serve huge portions of food! But remember, you don’t have to eat everything at one meal—take half of it home for lunch the next day.
To learn more about weight as it relates to quitting smoking, see Forever Free: Smoking and Weight (PDF, 1.18MB), a publication from the National Cancer Institute.
For anyone who resolves to stop smoking, help is as close as your cell phone.
According to NIDA’s 2011 Monitoring the Future survey results, teen smoking rates are currently at their lowest since the survey began in 1975. However, many teens continue to take up the habit—19 percent of 12th-graders reported past-month cigarette use.
By now, we all know that smoking has negative health effects. These include lung and heart disease and particularly cancer—since cigarettes contain chemicals that are carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. However, when it comes to quitting, the main problem is nicotine. Nicotine is addictive and makes quitting notoriously hard.
To help teens quit, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently launched SmokefreeTXT, a free text-to-quit service that sends text messages with encouragement, advice, and tips directly to teens’ cell phones.
How It Works
Sign up at www.teen.smokefree.gov or text “QUIT” to “iQUIT” (47848) and provide the date you smoked last. After that, you’ll receive text messages for up to 6 weeks. Research shows that support for quitting continues to be important beyond the first few weeks.
The text-to-quit campaign is just one feature of a broader effort to encourage teens to quit smoking. NCI’s new Smokefree Teen Web site features information, quizzes, comics, and other resources to help teens understand the decisions they make and to take control of their health.
Smokefree Teen also offers a free smartphone app, QuitSTART—an interactive guide that provides mood management tips, tracks cravings, and monitors quit attempts.
You can find Smokefree Teen on several social media pages to connect other teens with tools to help them quit.Think about “liking” Smokefree Teen on Facebook, even if you don’t smoke, to show support for your friends or family who are trying to quit.
Is 2012 the year of texting for healthy living? Let us know if you think campaigns like these can help you stay committed to your resolutions.
We already know how harmful smoking is to your health, but did you know it can be bad for the environment?
Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States—and the world.
Since cigarette butts are so small, most people who smoke don’t think much about their effect on our environment. In fact, many smokers think putting out their cigarettes on the ground is the “right” thing to do. But the effects of tossing that butt are far from harmless.
Along with making sidewalks and parks look dirty, cigarette butts are a toxic threat to the environment and to wildlife. Here are some reasons why:
- Cigarette filters are made from plastic that does not quickly degrade. Depending on the conditions, it can take 18 months to 10 years for a cigarette filter to decompose.
- Cigarette filters are meant to absorb the toxins from cigarettes that are dangerous for people to inhale, such as tar—that means those toxins are being thrown on the ground with the filter and polluting the environment.
- Cigarette butts also pollute our water, traveling through storm water systems to end up in streams, rivers, and waterways. Marine life can mistake them for food—in fact, plastic pieces from the filter have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales, and other marine animals. This can cause severe internal injuries, suffocation, starvation, and death.
Have you been at a restaurant or party where people are smoking, and acting like their clouds of smoke are no big deal? Do you put up with breathing secondhand smoke to hang out with your friends? In this video, Dr. Gaya Dowling and Dr. Redonna Chandler sink a few balls while sharing some real facts about smoking.
Fact: Nicotine is addictive.
Fact: Most smokers start smoking before the age of 18.
Fact: It only takes eight seconds for the nicotine in cigarette smoke to be inhaled, enter your brain, and start affecting your brain cells—whether or not you're the one who lit up in the first place!
That's less time than it takes most people to cue up and make a shot. Watch the video and see what you think.
Have you noticed that a lot of restaurants don't have indoor smoking sections anymore? More and more cities, counties, and entire states are banning indoor smoking. People everywhere are getting the message: smoking causes disease and death. In fact, it is the number one preventable cause of death in this country. NIDA scientists have shown how incredibly addictive smoking is, especially when people start in their teens—which most that do, get addicted. So protect your health and avoid the hassle and...don't start. It's a no-brainer.
If you need more reasons not to smoke besides smelly clothes and yellow teeth, here you go:
- Your wallet. How can you afford that new video game if you're burning cash on cigarettes?
- Your athletic ability. Smokers run slower and can't run as far, like being old before you're old.
- Your state of mind. It takes just 8 seconds for nicotine from cigarettes to reach your brain and change the way it works. Although scientists aren't totally sure why yet, one study found that teens who smoke a lot are 15 times more likely to have panic attacks than teens who don't smoke. Teen smokers also are more likely to have anxiety disorders and depression.
- Your future. Quitting smoking is hard. But the health consequences are even harder to deal with.
If you or any of your friends smoke, know help is out there. For free quitting support, call 1–800–QUIT–NOW (1–800–784–8669).
Today kicks off National Public Health Week, April 5–11, 2010. This means that governments, businesses, schools, and community organizations across the county will be promoting lifestyles and policies that support and improve people's health. That is, after all, what "public health" is all about—encouraging people to make good decisions about their health, such as quitting smoking or getting vaccinated, and making sure that our neighborhoods support healthy choices like designating drug-free school zones or putting in bike trails to help people of all ages get more exercise.
Here in the U.S., we are dealing with many important issues related to public health, including obesity, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS, and there's still much work to be done. But what if it only took a few years to turn this situation around? What if today's teens could become some of the healthiest adults on the planet? That's the goal that National Public Health Week is inspiring us to achieve: "the healthiest nation in one generation." What does that mean for you?? See this video for some ideas.
Here are some ways you can get involved in public health:
- Organize a public health event at your school. Talk with your teachers, classmates, and friends about a public health challenge at your school and how a group of you could help resolve it. For example, if your school lunches are missing fresh fruits, you could organize a lunchtime smoothie session with healthy ingredients from your local grocery store.
- Join a public health event in your neighborhood, town or city. Is there a walk, run, or bike ride coming up in your area about a health issue that concerns you? Inquire with the organizers about teen involvement, and then round up your relatives, classmates, neighbors, and friends to participate or volunteer as a group.
- Go for a career in public health. Public health obviously involves doctors and nurses, but it's important to realize it also takes scientists, educators, communicators, city planners, politicians, and many others to research, plan, test, treat, raise awareness, and make laws to prevent disease and injury and promote health in society. This means there are hundreds of ways to be involved! For starters, check out the Disease Detective Summer Camp offered by the CDC.
- Lead by example and spread the word. When it comes to teen drug abuse, this is one of the most important things teens can do – for themselves and each other. Learning about drugs and their effects on the body, and sharing that knowledge with others, makes you part of improving the public health. Helping yourself or someone else resist drug abuse or overcome addiction are powerful experiences that can help you and others.
We hope you can find something healthy to do this week in honor of National Public Health Week. Leave us a comment and let us know your opinion on becoming the healthiest nation in one generation.
Get this: There are more than one billion smokers on planet Earth. Yep, that’s a billion people around the world whose nicotine addiction is leading to high rates of cancer and emphysema, increased air pollution and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined!
So what to do about it? For starters, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared May 31 as “World No Tobacco Day.” For this year’s theme, WHO is focusing on women and girls—who make up about 20% of all smokers worldwide. That’s more than 200 million women and girls who may not be getting all the facts!
But fortunately, the trend with teens is going in the right direction. The latest Monitoring the Future report of teens in 8th, 10th and 12th grades found that Cigarette smoking among U.S. teens is at its lowest point since the survey started in 1975. That’s a fact worth celebrating, since smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in this country, which means the best way to avoid these negative consequences is not to start.
Other trends are not so good, including the one showing that advertisers are targeting more girls outside the U.S., who may not know as much about the dangers of smoking.
Everyone can take a step toward making May 31 tobacco-free—in your family, your school, your community, or the world. If you or someone you love smokes, get the facts. The American Cancer Society is a good place to start, with a Guide to Quitting Smoking.
Make every day a No-Tobacco Day!