July Recognizes Adults Caring for Their Children and Parents
Amanda Crawford was just fifteen when she smoked her first cigarette. Now that she is 45, she still smokes despite having tried to quit multiple times. Children are fifty percent more likely to start smoking if they have a parent who smokes – and in Crawford’s case, it was her father who smoked. Born and raised in Virginia, she met and married her husband – also a smoker – in Roanoke. The Crawfords now have three sons – 28, 14 and 11. “Our 28-year old started smoking when he turned 18 and our 14-year old is already sneaking cigarettes. My father quit smoking later in his life, but I’m concerned about how smoking will affect the health of our entire family,” she said.
She is not alone. As caregivers across the country mobilize for Sandwich Generation Month in July, the American Legacy Foundation® today released the results of a recent survey analyzing the unique concerns associated with tobacco use and prevention for Americans raising their own kids while simultaneously caring for their aging parents – millions of whom have been life-long smokers and are now struggling with the resulting health effects. Lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, can all afflict aging smokers and can be emotionally and financially debilitating for families forced to cope with them.
The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, found that 75 percent of respondents with a parent who is a current or former smoker are concerned about their aging parent’s current or past smoking or their diagnosis of having a tobacco-related disease. Thirty-four percent of respondents with teenage or adult children indicated that they were concerned about their child’s current or potential smoking. About 5% of respondents were “sandwiched” in between: struggling with issues related to both their parents and children smoking. Nationwide, this small percentage translates to more than 10 million Americans in this situation.
The survey highlights the unique position of this group of Americans and their concerns about the impact of the nation’s number-one preventable cause of death on their emotional and financial well-being. Treating tobacco- related disease is enormously expensive for families and for the healthcare system. A 2007 American Legacy Foundation report found that America’s Medicaid system could spend nearly $10 billion less within five years if all Medicaid beneficiaries who smoke, quit. Effective smoking prevention and cessation programs could cut Medicaid costs by 5.6 percent.
Results from this survey also found that while just over a third of respondents are concerned about their own kids smoking, 56 percent of all respondents feel that a national youth smoking prevention campaign will keep kids from lighting up. Almost half (49 percent) think that a national quit smoking campaign will help reduce healthcare costs across the country.
“As healthcare reform and the economy dominate our headlines, we simply cannot ignore the burden of smoking on the health of America’s families”, said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH. “This snapshot into the lives and concerns of this segment of our population reinforces the urgency with which more resources which will return money and lives as dividends,” she said. This is especially important given one in five of those concerned about their parents say the healthcare costs associated with smoking are impacting their family’s financial situation more than ever.
Late last year, the foundation commissioned an online survey by Harris Interactive analyzing the impact of the economic crisis on smokers. In that survey, 77 percent of smokers report increased stress levels due to the current state of the economy and two-thirds of those smokers say this stress has had an effect on their smoking.
The single best way for smokers to improve their health is to quit. Forty-six million Americans have stopped smoking but currently 43 million still do. On average, it takes 8-11 attempts before a smoker quits for good so adopting a personalized, comprehensive quit plan is critical to increasing the odds for success. The free, state-of-the-art EX® campaign is helping smokers quit by arming them with the best information available to re-learn their lives without cigarettes. Visit http://www.becomeanex.org/ for more information.
The current survey was conducted on behalf of the American Legacy Foundation by Opinion Research Corporation’s CARAVAN® Telephone Survey among a national probability sample of 1,002 adults 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States, during the period June 19-22, 2009. A full methodology is available.
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The American Legacy Foundation® is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation’s programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit http://www.americanlegacy.org/.