As a tobacco education specialist at Goshen Hospital, every day I see the results of a lifetime addiction to nicotine. Often, those “lifetimes” are not very long. I visit patients daily in their 30s, 40s and 50s suffering from serious chronic diseases. Cancers, cardiovascular problems and respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, are all too common in the folks I see.

I continue to work in this area, way past normal retirement age, because tobacco use shortened the lives of my parents and many other family members. My father and a cousin died from throat cancer. My mother and several aunts and uncles from heart disease. My maternal grandfather was only mid-60s when he lost his battle with emphysema. So, when Goshen Hospital established a tobacco education specialist position in 2014, I applied immediately. They were one of the first Indiana hospitals to establish such a position, and I knew it would be very rewarding to help patients become tobacco-free.

Mark Potuck is a tobacco education specialist at Goshen Hospital and Tobacco Control of Elkhart County coalition member.

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