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Op-ed: Our commitment to a tobacco-free Utah



Huntsman Cancer Institute

A view of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. To commemorate World No Tobacco Day on May 31

, HCI joins the World Health Organization and other global partners to reaffirm our commitment to a tobacco-free world, and in particular to a tobacco-free Utah.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah was founded with the unique focus of eradicating cancer from the face of the earth. Our dedicated teams of scientists and researchers work tirelessly to fulfill this vision while transforming the landscape of cancer research, education and patient care in Utah and Mountain West.

The rate of death from cancer has steadily dropped over the last two decades Nevertheless, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in Utah and the US. Although not all cancers are preventable, it is estimated that up to one third of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco use.

The dangers and risks associated with tobacco use are well known and well documented, and by 2018 tobacco will remain one of the greatest public health threats in our communities.

To commemorate World No Tobacco Day on May 31, HCI joins the World Health Organization and other global partners to affirm our commitment to a tobacco-free world, and specifically to a tobacco-free Utah.

As the official cancer center of the state, we are uniquely positioned to end tobacco control Disparities through targeted contacts with Utah communities, expanded support for weaning services, and advocacy for a comprehensive tobacco control policy

At HCI, our community outreach team travels to all State Districts and partnerships with local, nonprofit, faith-based organizations and community organizations to teach tens of thousands of Utais annually. This work encourages individual behavioral change, connecting tobacco consumers with vital resources such as leaving and the Utah State Quit Line, a free and bilingual 24/7 telephone coaching service.

A report from Utah's Department of Health estimates that 70 percent of Utahns who smoke cigarettes plan to quit within the next year. We must do everything we can to build on this existing work and expand tobacco cessation services – both in the community and in our health systems – to those who need them most, including cancer patients, racial and ethnic minorities, low-income and LGBTQ

start This month, HCI opened the Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity to help reduce cancer inequalities in Utah through research and clinical interventions. As our population grows, more resources will be needed to better understand why some of the Utans continue to consume tobacco.

Evidence-based policies continue to play a crucial role in tobacco control as they help make tobacco less affordable as tobacco is sold and used to protect our children from initiation. Utah tobacco use has been declining over the past three decades due to laws and education that restrict access to tobacco. However, since 2013, the use of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems has almost doubled among our teens and is expected to increase.

HCI supports raising the legal minimum age for the sale of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 19 to 19 21. This is an opportunity to work with local policymakers to launch a new, healthier standard that will have a profound impact on public health Will have health for future generations. The data shows that about 95 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 21. New legislation would significantly reduce adolescent tobacco use and save thousands of lives over time. Five states across the country have already passed nationwide laws that evoke the tobacco age.


Comment on this story

HCI continues to support the advocacy of tobacco-free policies in our workplaces, businesses and universities. Most recently, HCI has made efforts to declare the University of Utah a tobacco-free campus that can deliver years of commitment to a healthier environment for students, faculty, staff and patients. This new policy provides a supportive environment for those who want to quit, supports clean air initiatives and reduces the cost of fire and health insurance, maintenance, absence and health care. It is now time for Utah's public colleges and universities to pursue a similar policy.

As Utahns we should all be proud of the progress we have made towards a tobacco-free world. However, there is still much to do as we implement these comprehensive recommendations that will positively impact health for generations.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute is more committed than ever.

Will you join us?

John W. Sweetenham, MD, is the senior clinical affairs director and chief physician of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.


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