Rise in smoking among Ohioans linked to stress

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A new study indicates more adults in Ohio are smoking despite years of health warnings and the state's indoor smoking ban.

The study shows about 2.6 million Ohioans are smoking in 2011 which is a 2.2 percent increase over last year.

Cheri Miller, who directs the wellness program at The Christ Hospital, says she's not surprised at the increase.  She says its due to "the increase in stress in everybody's lives due to financial and economic situations."

Miller says tobacco is a convenient stress reliever.

"Because it is used as a stress management coping technique and people get good results with it," she said. "The kind of catch-22 to nicotine is that it makes your brain feel happy and its a very strong reinforcer."

Ellen Berninger with the Cincinnati Health Department says it's clear that stress is a big challenge for people trying to quit.

"There are a lot of folks out there who have had kind of a rough year and a couple of rough times ahead of them, but the thing to remember is smoking [is] a battle you can win," said Berninger.

Stop smoking programs are plentiful around the state. At The Christ Hospital, a two-pronged approach is used. Nicotine patches or gum is used for the cravings and therapy is used for the stress.

"A lot of group classes are talking about what's causing your stress, what are stressful situations and let's help you talk through or work through some tools to use effective communication strategies," said Miller.

The state of Ohio has a toll free stop smoking help line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, but its hours have been reduced because of budget cuts.

The Food and Drug Administration plans on spending $600 million over the next five years to educate the public about tobacco use.

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