Looking to quit smoking? There’s an app for that!

Actually there are many apps out there to assist with those who want to quit smoking many of which are free.  Leah Kaiser of the Ohio State Health Plan reviewed a few of these apps at a recent demonstration at the Ohio State Digital Union.  Here is what she found:

LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach(IPhone):  This app will allow you to evaluate your current status, set attainable goals and adjust preferences according to your needs.   One great feature is that it will allow you to track your cravings.    By knowing when your cravings hit, you can plan for them and develop strategies to overcome them.

Quit It Lite(IPhone): The focus of this app is to allow you to see benefits you have realized since you quit, both financially and health-wise.  It also provides a counter to show how long it has been since you quit – just in case you need such a reminder.  It can also be integrated with your social media accounts to provide additional support.

Cessation Nation (Android):  This app is very similar to Quit It Lite – but for the android.  One added bonus is that it provides a distracting game to play when those cravings hit.

My Quit Buddy (IPhone & Android): Set goals, get science facts, see the financial and health benefits you have achieved since quitting, get quitting tips.

Mindfulness Medication(IPhone & Android):  This app focuses on medication to set you in the correct mindset to quit the habit.  You can meditate while listening to a narration or you can use the timer feature to meditate without the narration.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

The Great American Smokeout

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes – Nearly 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes – other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.

The health benefits of quitting start immediately from the moment of smoking cessation. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

Check out how your body recovers after quitting:

  • 20 minutes – your heart rate and blood pressure drop
  • 12 hours – the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
  • 2 weeks – 3 months – your circulation improves and your lung function increases
  • 1-9 months – coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • 1 year – excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smokers
  • 2-5 years – stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smokers
  • 5 years – risk of cancer of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half
  • 10 years – risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a continuing smokers
  • 15 years – risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smokers

Information taken from American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Non-smoking versus Tobacco-Free – they are not the same

As of right now, The Ohio State University is a non-smoking campus, but January 1, 2014 that will change.  A new policy is going into effect to make The Ohio State University tobacco-free.  Non-smoking, tobacco-free, what’s the difference?

The current Non-Smoking Policy:

  • Prohibits smoking inside of any Ohio State building or facility (owned, operated, or leased)
    • This includes any tobacco product that is generally smoked, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.
  • Permits smoking outdoors with the exception of
    • Building entrances
    • Designated tobacco-free zones
    • Stadiums, amphitheaters and other such outdoor facilities

The new Tobacco-Free policy:

  • Prohibits the use of tobacco products on Ohio State property (owned, operated, or leased), indoors or outdoors.
    • This includes ALL tobacco products, regardless of whether or not they can be smoked.

Long story short, effective January 1, 2014, all tobacco products are banned from The Ohio State University.

Submitted by Brandi Elking, Health Sciences Student

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Benefits of Being Tobacco-Free

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Now that Ohio State is considering a tobacco-free campus initative, perhaps we should learn if smoking bans lead to measurable positive health results.  A recent study looked at health benefits after a smoking ban was put in place in restaurants and workplaces in a community in Minnesota. 

They found:

  • A 33% decrease in heart attacks (myocardial infarctions)
  • A 17% decrease in sudden cardiac death

This study also measured other possible risk factors for heart problems, so that it avoided overestimating the benefit. 

The docs conducting the study concluded:

  • “Exposure to second-hand smoke should be considered a modifiable risk factor for MI”
  • “All people should avoid second-hand smoke exposure as much as possible, and those with coronary heart disease should have no exposure to second-hand smoke.”

If you are interested in advice about smoking and reducing your risk for heart disease, come visit a provider at Student Health Services.  We are happy for assist you.  Until then, squash that butt!

 Good Health!

 Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

Few days left to make your choice,,,about smoking

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November 15 – the 37th Annual Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is a day for smokers to take a day off from using tobacco, and for nonsmokers to encourage their friends to do the same.  Are you getting prepared?

If you do plan to quit, you should know that the days ahead are going to be tough, and most people make several attempts before they actually kick the habit for good. So, don’t be too discouraged if it takes a few tries to make it stick!

The great news is that there are a TON of resources out there to help you quit smoking.

One of my favorite programs is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You can call this free hotline and speak to a professional smoking cessation counselor. They can help you get over your fears about quitting, help you set your quit date, teach you coping strategies for cravings, etc. The really great thing about this service is that they can often help you get access to nicotine replacement therapy if you are qualified, whether or not you have insurance. Plus, people who use “quit lines” have been found to be more successful in their attempts to quit!

If you’re not into the idea of calling a quit line, this government website is another great resource. It offers tips for quitting, a savings calculator, a cravings journal and much more!  The CDC website also offers a list of resources to help you quit. 

Closer to home, the staff of Student Health Services is also here to help. In addition to advice and encouragement, we can offer several prescription medication options to help you quit.  All medications have side effects, so be sure to discuss them fully with your health care provider before taking them.  The main options are:

Varenicline (Chantix) works by blocking the effect of nicotine on your brain, so if you relapse and light up, that cigarette won’t give you the same pleasurable effect it used to.  It also helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms.  Varenicline is not covered by insurance and it ain’t cheap (about $120/month), but it does seem to be very effective. 

Buproprion (Wellbutrin) is a commonly prescribed antidepressant that has been found to decrease tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms.  Buproprion is much cheaper than Varenicline (it’s on many $4 prescription plans and is usually covered by health insurance) but doesn’t seem to be quite as effective. 

There are also a number of nicotine replacement products on the market these days. You can get anything from patches to gum to lozenges to inhalers. These are typically priced so that a month of treatment costs the same as a month of cigarettes (at about a pack per day). So really, while it seems pricey up front, in the long run you’ll be saving money.  Even though you can buy them without a prescription, it’s always a good idea to talk to your health care provider before starting one of these products.

Good luck!  Please post a comment and let us know how you’re doing!  Who knows, your experiences may help someone else kick the habit!

Angela Walker, MD (OSU COM Alum)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU Student Health Services)


Reasons to quit smoking that you might actually care about

photo: nytimes.com

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah… smoking might give me lung cancer when I’m like 80.  So why should I worry about it now when I can just quit when I’m old?

A: Sure, lung cancer is one of the main reasons to quit, but we know you college (and graduate) students are invincible and don’t really care about little things like mortality, so here are a few other good reasons to quit smoking that might hit a little closer to home:

Tooth Loss

  • It is well known among dentists that smoking dramatically increases your chances of “edentulism” (i.e having no teeth). Smoking causes gum disease and plaque build-up which lead to tooth decay and loss. One study showed that the risk of tooth loss in smokers is more than 4 times that of non-smokers! Think you look cool holding that cigarette? Just think how much cooler you’ll look with dentures. The good news is that the risk of tooth loss decreases with smoking cessation.


  • Smoking is one of the leading causes of premature skin aging. (One of the identical twins in the photo at the right smokes and has been in the sun more than the other – can you tell which one it is?) Tobacco leads to degradation of the collagen and elastic fibers that keep skin looking smooth and young, leading to premature wrinkles, especially around the mouth and eyes. The mechanisms for this are thought to be similar to the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin – so stop tanning too while you’re at it!

Cervical cancer

  • Ladies, did you know that if you have been infected with certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), smoking increases your risk of developing cervical cancer compared to nonsmokers? Researchers are still looking into why this is, but they have actually detected nicotine in the cervical mucous of smokers!  And cervical cancer isn’t one of those things you only have to worry about in the distant future; it is increasingly affecting women in their 20s and 30s. The risk gets higher the longer you smoke, so the sooner you quit the better.

Birth defects

  • It is amazing that in this day and age we still need to tell people to quit smoking before they become pregnant, but unfortunately we still see it all the time. Smoking increases a woman’s risk of premature delivery, still birth, low infant birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Since roughly 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, the time to quit is now!

Limb amputation

  • Smoking is one of the major risk factors for peripheral arterial disease (loss of blood flow to the extremities which can lead to tissue damage and amputation). Ok, maybe this is another one of those long term problems you don’t want to think about while you’re young and indestructible, but it’s out there and it affects many people as they get older.


  • We know that financial concerns are far and away the biggest stressors for students: tuition, rent, books, fees, not having enough time to study for your classes because you have to work so many hours to pay for them. A pack of cigarettes costs around $5, so a pack-a-day habit costs you $1825 a year! Think about that. How many months of rent or credit hours would that buy? How many student loans could you pay off (or not take out in the first place)? Even if you’re just a casual smoker who only buys a pack on the weekend when you go out drinking, that’s $250 in a year. That would buy you an iTouch!

The thought of becoming a poor, wrinkly, stressed out, toothless, cancer-ridden amputee still not enough reasons to quit?  Check out the CDC’s website for more useful information on the risks of smoking and resources for quitting.  We’ll follow up with another post listing some local resources for quitting soon.

Angela Walker (Ohio State College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, M.D (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Save a Million Hearts!

Million Hearts - Sodium?

Think you will have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years?  Well, of course, at 50, my chances are a lot greater than yours.  But even young adults can be at risk.  Is your cholesterol elevated?  How about your blood pressure? Do you smoke? 

Visit this link to try out a risk calculator for yourself

Ok, maybe you are reading this in the RPAC, after your intense daily workout, your pleasing weigh-in, and your fruit-n-bran smoothie.  If you are already doing the things you should, maybe you can spread the word to the people you care about.  (Think – Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Aunt, Neighbor, Friend):

Launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with several key partners, Million Hearts aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

The first goal is to empower Americans to make healthy choices such as preventing tobacco use and reducing sodium and “trans” fat consumption. This can reduce the number of people who need medical treatment such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The second goal is improving care for people who do need treatment by encouraging a targeted focus on the “ABCS

  • Aspirin for people at risk,
  • Blood pressure control,
  • Cholesterol management and
  • Smoking cessation

These four items address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.  

If you want to learn more about your health and your heart attack and stroke risk, stop in at the Student Wellness Center, or come see us at Student Health.  We have the expertise and are here on campus for you. 

Students First!

Roger Miller, MD  (OSU Student Health Services)

Check your calendar, Groundhog!


Jogging with tunes

Courtesy cksinfo.com

 February 2.  Your New Year’s resolution is officially 33 days old.  How are you doing?  Did you decide to

  • Eat healthier?
  • Stop smoking?
  • Get more exercise?
  • Party less?
  • Finally address your moodiness and depression?

One challenge of a New Year’s resolution is that it is so permanent.  If you stop smoking on January 1, only to catch yourself with a cigarette on the 3rd, all is lost.  So, how can you make this more productive and less discouraging? 

Well, if the universe can be committed to fair or foul weather for a few weeks by the emergence of a groundhog from its hole, what say you?  Can you set a short term goal for the next 6 weeks? 

Healthy eating – Can you add another fruit and vegetable to your daily diet each of the next 6 weeks? Remember, while fresh fruits and veggies have a lot of health benefits, you can also get some of these servings from microwave soups, packaged fruit bars, etc., that may be a bit easier to carry around campus.

Smokers – how about setting March 15 as your planned stop date?  Between now and then, look at your smoking habits, try to wean yourself down on the number of cigarettes used every day, and consider a visit to Student Wellness or the Health Center to talk to a professional about the health benefits. 

Exercise – Are you a couch potato?  Try starting with a twenty-minute walk tonight.  Over the next 6 weeks, see if you can progress to 30 minutes of activity that gets your heart beating a little faster, and do it at least 5 days of the week. 

Alcohol – We all know that alcohol should be used legally and in moderation.  If you occasionally cross the line, try this trick – when you go out, see if you can limit yourself to no more than one alcoholic drink each hour. If you meet your goal, then slip a five-dollar bill into your piggy bank when you get home.  At the end of six weeks, see how many “Abes” you have accumulated.

Depression – The National College Health Assessment reports that more than one in four college students is suffering from depression, but only of third of them have consulted a healthcare professional.  Did you know that in six weeks of treatment, either with medicines, counseling, or both, you can see significant improvements? 

6 weeks.  Enough time to get out there and let the sun shine on your new healthier lifestyle?  Or maybe you want to just stay in your dark, wet, wormy hole in the ground?  It’s your decision.  Will you risk seeing your shadow?

Happy Winter!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

Smoking can make your nipples fall off!


Now THAT is a blog title that’ll get your attention, huh?  I wish I could take credit for it, but it actually belongs to Dr. Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon in Detroit.  Dr. Youn is a pretty funny guy and gives some good advice – you should definitely check out the post.  

Now I realize that gravity has yet to inflict its cruelties on most college and grad students so there aren’t a lot of breast lifts getting scheduled around campus.  But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from Dr. Youn’s terrifying tale of necrotic nipples. 

We did a post a while back on reasons to quit smoking you might actually care about and we talked about peripheral arterial disease (PAD) – impaired blood flow to the extremities which can lead to tissue damage and amputation.  Like many of smoking’s ill effects, PAD mostly affects old people and is therefore easy to blow off.  But there are all kinds of surgeries that young people may run into, and as Dr. Youn so vividly points out, ones who smoke are at a higher risk for poor wound healing, which can lead to heavier scarring and/or higher risk of infection after surgery.

So don’t smoke, Young Buckeyes.  Your nipples – and the rest of you – will thank you for it.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Is smoking hookah safer than smoking cigarettes?


The hookah has been around for almost 400 years, but it’s recently become very trendy, especially on college campuses. The American Lung Association even named hookah smoking the first new tobacco trend of the 21st century.

The hookah is also known as a waterpipe because the smoke passes through water then into tubes from which it is inhaled. The tobacco used in hookah is called narghile, shisha, or goza. It is often flavored and has a sweeter taste and aroma than regular tobacco.  Hookah tobacco is not self-igniting so charcoal is placed on top of it to help it burn.

There’s a misconception among many hookah users that it is not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.  The sweet smell and taste can make people think it’s not “real” tobacco, and the fact that hookah lounges have been allowed to stay open in many cities despite public bans on smoking sends a mixed message that it is somehow safer than other forms of tobacco.  Many people also believe that because the smoke passes through water before being inhaled that all of the toxins and carcinogens are somehow filtered out.

But don’t fall for the hipster hype! Hookah tobacco is still tobacco and it contains nicotine and all of the other harmful substances that cigarettes do.  Not only that, but the burning charcoal placed on the tobacco emits by-products that are inhaled along with the tobacco smoke (you might as well light a cigarette on your grill and keep your face buried in the burgers for 20 minutes).  And when it comes to preventing harmful substances from reaching the lungs, the water in a hookah works just as well as a filter on a cigarette.  In other words, NOT.  AT.  ALL. 

So before you follow all the skinny jeans and vintage hats to the local hookah lounge, consider these facts:

  • Both the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that second-hand smoke has been shown to pose a serious threat to nonsmokers and smoke from waterpipes is no exception.
  • Several studies have shown that hookah smoking increases the probability of developing lung problems, heart problems, cancer and nicotine addiction.
  • There have been reports of users inhaling and exhaling high carbon dioxide levels (as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency) during hookah sessions.  So hanging out in a hookah lounge can expose you to unsafe levels of CO2.

Bottom line? Smoking hookah carries the same health risks as smoking cigarettes. 

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University