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A Worthwhile Tax

Although concerned advocates across the state are doing great work, to expand access to quality, affordable health care, with the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care for short, there are still significant numbers of Marylanders who will fall through the cracks.  Through no fault of their own, they will make too much money to qualify for some programs, but still not earn enough to be able to go out and buy an affordable policy, to cover themselves and their families.  As advocates, this is unacceptable.  We can, must, and will do better.

One of the best ways to eliminate this insurance gap is to continue good, proven public health policy that we know works.  By increasing the state tobacco tax by one dollar a pack, we can prevent our youth from starting to smoke, provide incentive for adult smokers to really give quitting a go, and provide significant amounts of revenue to help our fellow citizens with something they so desperately want and need – health care coverage so they have peace of mind.  Tobacco taxes are win-win policy.  People stop (or don’t begin) smoking, revenues are raised, and we save massive amounts of health care costs for all of us.

If we can reduce smoking rates and decrease the rolls of the uninsured, we are not only do the right thing morally, we are also making a financial decision that effects the entire population, smoker or not.  One might say that if you increase the tax and people stop smoking, then you will see a dramatic decrease in the revenue obtained.  Correct, and exactly what we want!  We want fewer people to die from awful tobacco related illnesses, to reduce the numbers of uninsured and thereby reduce the amount of uncompensated care, and at the same time have Marylanders lead healthier and happier lives!


Matt Celentano is the Assistant Director Of Maryland Health Care for All

Great American Smokeout

Millions of people attempt to quit smoking every year- yet less than 7% are actually successful. To some, the thought of quGASOitting seems overwhelming. Many studies have shown that smokers with a strong support system who can guide and motivate them while quitting, are the most successful in staying quit. For that reason, the American Cancer Society has created an annual day in November to challenges smokers to quit for one-day, while aligning them with tobacco cessation resources to aid them in staying quit. This special day is called the Great American Smokeout. Since its inception in the 1970s, the Great American Smokeout is held on the third Thursday in November.

The Great American Smokeout is also instrumental in raising awareness of the lives lost and negative health impact associated with smoking as well as creating momentum in the anti-tobacco movement. Through their efforts many states with strong anti-tobacco legislation have seen the numbers of smokers dwindle. Maryland, one of the most progressive states with regards to tobacco restrictions, faces an uphill battle with smoking in the Black community. For example, in Southwest Baltimore, a predominantly Black community, 59% of residents smoking, while the state average in Maryland is 15%. With this obvious health disparity in mind, CEASE has been instrumental in helping area residents quit smoking by creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere. Join us on November 2oth, 2014 as we support American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.

For more information on how you can QUIT for good, look at our new class schedule in our November newsletter.

Our democracy at work!!

On October 7, 2014 the Judiciary Committee of the Baltimore City Council met to hear testimony on proposed legislation that would treat the use, sale and retail placement of e-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes. The Council room was packed, with those supporting and opposing to the bill.

The legislation, City Council Bill 14-0371 , was first introduced by Council members Kraft, Scott, Curran, Henry, Middleton, Clarke, Reisinger in April of this year.  It received a positive report from the Baltimore City Health Department, the Environmental Control Board, the City Department of Finance and the City Solicitor. The bill doesn’t say anything about the pros or cons e-cigarettes may have on health, environmental waste, helping people stop smoking, or addiction. Those are issues the Food & Drug Administration has to make policy about.

So what a surprise to me when many of those testifying against the bill brought up “harm reduction”, “helping people stop smoking”, “product safety”, and “nicotine levels”. Folks who “vape” shared the benefits they felt since switching from “smoking”. These are real people, with real stories that are certainly reducing the number of chemicals they are putting in their bodies. But let’s face it- that isn’t what this legislation is about.

As I see it, it is about two things. First it is to stop the easy exposure and access youth (under 18) have to these products.  The use of e-cigarettes has quadrupled in the past 2 years! Kids that would never dream of smoking a cigarette are vaping, many without realizing that there is nicotine in the fruit and candy flavored “juice”. We can’t talk about harm reduction in this group because their harm level started at zero, not the level of say 10 that cigarette smokers have. Preventing young people from using an addictive substance, any addictive substance is a good thing.

The second thing this legislation is about is protecting non-vapers from any second- or third-hand vapor! Is this stuff better than tobacco smoke? As far as we know, yes but… We really don’t know the long term effects of these products, so why take a chance? Treating e-cigarettes like cigarettes means restaurants and bars, playground and workplaces will allow everyone to breathe air they don’t have to worry about.

Just a final thought- some folks are suggesting that we allow bars and taverns to decide if they have vaping if they want to. This same argument was used for years to prevent clean in-door air laws from passing-“it should be the owner’s choice”. All the predictions about the economic downside of stopping smoking in restaurants and bars came to nothing, when the Clean In-Door Air Act passed in 2007.

Let’s not go backwards. Let’s prevent a new generation of nicotine ‘fiends’ among our youth. Let’s not allow the tobacco industry to glamorize addiction right next to the candy bars.

Christine Schutzman, CEASE Research Coordinator, former smoker and Tobacco Treatment Specialist

Vaping – the route away or back to smoking?

Written by: Christina Saunders

While many smokers believe vaping is an easy way to curb their appetite for nicotine and also assist them with quitting, they need to get the facts. Vaping

For those who don’t know, vaping is the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette),  battery-powered devices that delivers a form of nicotine.Some e-cigarettes  mimic the feel of traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are refillable or have a replaceable cartridge of liquid “juice” that contains nicotine, solvents and flavors. Users put the device to their mouths and suck in which causes the battery to heat the liquid solution, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.

In 2009, the American Lung Association issued a warning that e-cigarettes are harmful, and contain carcinogens and are absent FDA review and approval. Their advice was stay away! Vaporization is often used to refer to the physical destruction of an object by exposing it to intense heat. That sounds cool, but do you really want something that has been vaporized in your lungs? And vaping does not destroy nicotine, the same drug that is in regular cigarettes that keeps people addicted and prevents them from wanting to quit and live a healthier life.

In fact, many who are new to vaping are often lead to smoking cigarettes and many smokers using vaping to quit eventually return back to smoking cigarettes. Equally disturbing is the increase of vaping in young people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use among school-age children has tripled in the last three years, with half of the kids who reported vaping stating that they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year. Not only has vaping increased among children, but there have also been increased calls to poison centers for children under the age of 5 after they accidently ingested e-cigarette liquids.

If you are a smoker, safer and healthy routes away from smoking are available to you and CEASE can help.  For more information on how to quit all cigarettes, visit

Waverly Walker Field Notes: Smoking Debris

Douglas William Garcia Mowbray – Waverly Improvement Association, Board of Directors

May 13, 2014. 6 in the p.m. Tonight’s walkers will meet at Chestnut Hill Park, 600 block of Chestnut Hill Avenue in northern Waverly. We walk north on Old York Road; I am pushing a stroller filled with Emerson, while Nayeli carries water for the flowers in the park’s planters. On Old York Road, along the curb, debris that dried up after a recent storm surge. First sign of cigarettes: dried butts that never quite made their way to the storm drain and  on to the bay. Next rain storm, they’ll get their second chance.

At the park, underneath the picnic bench, an empty cigarette box. Butts scattered about the benches, smashed into the worn ground where grass never grows, where grass never gets a chance to grow. Also, evidence of marijuana use—cigarillo wrappers and little clear zip-lock baggies. Typical debris when the weather is nice. More than one kind of ‘lighting up’ here, probably after dark when eyes from houses can’t see who’s there, what they are up to.

With CEASE coming to Waverly and this new attention on helping people kick a damaging habit, I notice the cigarette leftovers more.  When usually my eyes spy and lock on the scourge of the black plastic convenience bags, now I am transformed into a CSI—cigarette scene investigator.

Along the curbs, trails of butts washed out from the streets and sidewalks, grass and alleys. A city landscape turned so haphazardly into an ashtray. Each discarded cigarette butt like a Moses given over to the waters—to be adopted by the Chesapeake Bay; a self-inflicted plague, punishment of man on man, on all mankind, on all earthkind. I’ve read about a new trash device being deployed in the harbor—what an unnecessary expense if people upstream disposed of their waste properly or perhaps didn’t generate the waste at all.

Passing a man and his son, or grandson, maybe 8 years old, I nearly cough. The man is smoking.  How often does this child cough? What impression is made? Across the street, a worker going from his van to the house he is working on, finishes a smoke and flicks it into the bushes. If this was a really dry season, imagine the damage that mini-torch could do. (When the PSA with Smokey the Bear started showing up in the City I wondered why in the world they would try to teach people in an urban environment not to start fires in the forest. After discarding my blinders, I reread the message and it said ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,’ which is a different message from my childhood—“Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Perhaps this PSA still needs an upgrade. I can’t imagine a bear is the best spokesperson in the City to teach people not to flick lit butts.)

My son, 20 months old, has had enough of the stroller and wants to walk. His pace is not brisk like ours. His world view is closer to the ground; unless a truck drives by or a helicopter flies overhead, he is transfixed by everything on the ground: rocks, leaves, twigs, ants, lots of ants, candy wrappers, broken glass—and cigarette butts. He knows ‘Yuck!’ by now and I am quick on the draw when he reaches for a butt—Yuck, Emerson, yuck! That’s trash Emerson, basura (Spanish for ‘trash). He stops to consider this.

At home, he knows basura goes into the trash can. Out here, there are no trash cans. We have no trash bag with us (sometimes on walks we do bring bags). We could spend hours on a small section of a block, or alley, disposing of basura. He knows, or is learning, to dispose of his own waste properly. What is he to make of all this waste around him? His instinct is to pick up trash and put it in its place. What’s the lesson here? Sometimes we ignore trash, sometimes we don’t? We do schedule clean-ups throughout the year and make a conscious effort to remove such waste, but what will his evolving mind make of the concept that on some days we pick up the yuck, we gather the butts, we snatch up the black plastic bags, while on most days we don’t bother to bend down, we go about our day, our evening, and we simply leave the trash where it is? Will Emerson think we are hypocrites for not being consistent in picking up trash? When will he understand that sometimes you just have to sigh with disappointment and move on down the sidewalk? When he can fully and clearly speak and reflect on his world and his own thoughts and impressions, will he ask me these questions, or will he interrogate strangers about their bad habits?

Jennifer Wallace writes in her latest collection of poems, It Can Be Solved by Walking, “It is impossible to attend to the whole world. And that is an embarrassment and an anxiety.” (from the poem Somewhere someone still digs…)

Waverly Walkers meets twice a month, May through October, the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, starting at 6 p.m., concluding around 7 p.m. Each walk starts at a designated spot and walkers set out to explore the neighborhood with the only path, the only destination, being a wider understanding and connection to the people of Waverly, to this place we call home. A full schedule of walks can be found at the Waverly Walkers blog.

Stress and smoking: How to manage stress?

stresskeepcalamStress is sometimes just a part of life. It can be like a cloud that is hanging over your head. Some people eat tubs of ice cream and fried chicken when they re stressed, while others do not eat at all! Many people that smoke do so because they are stressed. Every puff seems to make the stress less of a burden. But contrary to this popular belief, smoking actually causes more stress- making the stress cloud bigger and our ability to cope lower. We cannot allow stress to control our behaviors and keep us smoking. There are so many alternatives ways to deal with stress. Look at the list below and pick one to try today. If that one doesn’t seem so great, try another tomorrow:

Breathe deeply:  breathe in….. breathe out…. One more time. This is more than a cliché. This breathing technique is very efficient in reducing stress

Exercise: you don’t have to be training for a marathon. Taking a short walk will help you reduce stress

Talk to someone: it’s always great to have a person or group of people who support you. Share your feelings and allow them to encourage you.

Take a moment to rest: sometimes you have to get away, even its just 5 minutes in your car or a spa day. Make time for yourself, to do the things you enjoy the most or do nothing at all!

For more tips on healthier ways to reduce stress, visit the links below:



The information contained in this blog is educational in nature and intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented is correct. However this information is not intended as professional medical advice nor as recommendations, neither should it be interpreted as the practice of medicine.. Please feel free to use the information from this blog for educational and personal purposes, as long as it is properly cited.

Eating properly to fight nicotine cravings

foodchoicesEvery year approximate two million Americans attempt to stop smoking. During the first month, many people on this journey experience intense nicotine cravings. Nicotine withdrawal can undermine the willpower of anyone  trying to quit, with side effects like irritability, mood changes, fatigue and  hunger. A proper nutrition game plan is important for keeping those cravings at bay and ultimately accomplishing the goal of living smoke free. Simply adding a variety of healthy foods into your diet can make your smoke-free transition easier- on your mind, body and even your wallet!

Did you know, there are some specific foods that will help reduce and satisfy your intense cravings for a cigarette? Or that after 48 hours of quitting smoking your sense of smell and taste buds are enhanced?  According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, hunger can trigger nicotine cravings. Eating small and well-balanced meals throughout the day will help  by distracting you from picking up a cigarette. Foods high in soluble fiber (i.e. oats, nuts, beans, apples, etc) help you stay fuller longer by slowing down your digestion. Salmon, which high in Omega 3 fatty acids, normally associated with achieving great skin and hair, is also known to “decrease some of the negative effects of smoking”. And remember- the more color on your plate, the better it is.

For those who feel the need to have something in their mouths, chewing sugar free gum, snacking on fruits and vegetables or eating trail mix can help keep your belly full while the crunching will keep your mouth occupied in a healthy way. Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth craving? Opt for a low calories option like yogurt topped with fresh fruit or some of these homemade dessert options.

Unfortunately, not all foods are created equal. A 2007 study “revealed that eating fruits and veggies also makes cigarettes taste worse, while red meat and alcohol make them taste great”. Additional studies have found that consumption of fast food, sugary snacks aid in increasing nicotine cravings. Lastly, be sure to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages to keep those cravings at bay.

In summary, here are three tips to help you fuel up to fight your nicotine cravings:

1) Eat a colorful and well balanced meal rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber, to stay healthy and feel more satisfied after a meal.

2) Eat crunchy foods (i.e. fruits & nuts) to keep your mouth active and healthy.

3) Avoid food such as fast food, processed meals, alcohol and caffeinated beverages as they magnify your cravings.


**The information contained in this blog is educational in nature and intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented is correct. However this information is not intended as professional medical advice nor as recommendations, neither should it be interpreted as the practice of medicine.. Please feel free to use the information from this blog for educational and personal purposes, as long as it is properly cited.


Smoking and pregnant women just don’t mix

Much has been said about the “potential” negative effects of tobacco on babies, but could it really be that bad?  Unfortunately, yes! Tobacco use while pregnant has serious effects on the mother and even worse effects on the child. The mother  is more likely to have vaginal bleeding, a  stillborn son or daughter  or a miscarriage. If the baby survives to the delivery date, it  has  higher chances of being born with birth defects, low birth weight, impaired lungs and other serious health problems.

smoking babyWhile the good news is that many women stop smoking while pregnant, many others don’t. And according to research published in the British Medical Journal, nicotine patches alone are not helping pregnant women quit their addiction. However a combination of tobacco cessation techniques, such as group support, patches and other tools,  is helpful.

Whether you are pregnant, not pregnant, male or female, the use of tobacco is harmful to  everyone. CEASE understands that nicotine patches and gum alone are often not enough to help people become tobacco-free. Rather, those tools and strong support will ensure success on the journey to becoming an ex-tobacco user.


We Can Do It!

we-can-do-itMarch is Women’s History month. A time to reflect on the value of women from all over the world. In the United States specifically, women have made great contributions to the very foundation of our country. During World War II, the majority of the male workforce had gone to war. The great women of this country stepped up and filled in the gaps by working the jobs their fathers, husbands, brothers and cousins left behind. This was a huge deal because, traditionally, women were not in a large part of the workplace or in positions of authority. After the war, everything changed.

Fast forward to the present and we see that women continue to make great contributions. Unfortunately, there is a silent enemy that threatens the well-being of women as a whole.  TOBACCO. Since the WW II, more women have picked up the habit of smoking as the years have gone by. Each year, more than 170,000 women die from smoking caused illnesses! It turns out that men and women are affected differently from tobacco. Women get cervical cancer; have low birth weight infants and bone thinning from smoking. Some research shows that women have lower success rates in tobacco cessation.

WE CAN DO IT. ONE STEP AT A TIME. As women, we can overcome this addiction despite the research.


To read more, click on this link:

The information contained in this blog is educational in nature and intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented is correct. However this information is not intended as professional medical advice nor as recommendations, neither should it be interpreted as end all information. Please feel free to use the information from this blog for educational and personal purposes, as long as it is properly cited.


Are you SMART Enough?

Emerging adults (ages 18 – 24) are at significant risk for HIV, STDs, and substance abuse.  The Get SMART Project, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), aims to prevent and reduce substance abuse and the transmission of HIV and STDS among young adults. Get SMART utilizes innovative approaches that promote equity, culturally appropriate services and access to reliable sexual health education.

Young people are not invincible and HIV/STDs do not discriminate. Therefore, it really pays to be SMART. The SMART Project pays participants to learn about contemporary social issues such as HIV/STDs, substance abuse and the health consequences associated with tobacco use, and share the information within their social networks.  The participants could earn as much as $300.00. Furthermore, participants learn about the deleterious relationship between alcohol, drugs, and sex. The sobering facts here are: Mixing alcohol and/or drugs with sex increases the risk of HIV/STDs, intimate partner violence, and unintended pregnancy. This is because if you have sex when you high and/or using drugs, you are much less likely to be thinking clearly enough to practice responsible sexual behavior (use of condoms), or use condoms correctly.

Get SMART creates a culture that supports “real discussions” and a safe non-judgmental space to talk about sex, drugs, and alcohol. The participants are empowered with evidence-based information to make informed health and sexual health decisions.  Don’t miss out!  Get Real!!  Get SMART!!!

Follow us @GetSmartBmore.