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The Dangers Of Cigarette Smoking

There are few things that doctors generally agree upon, but the dangers of cigarette smoking are one of them.  Ironically, the more we learn about smoking, the more dangers we learn it has, yet teenage girls are still increasingly starting the habit.  In 2001, more than 351,500 American children under age 18 started smoking; of these, more than 112,000 will eventually die from a smoking related illness.  Seem surprising?  Tobacco use is directly responsible for more than 25 causes of death and is a risk factor for numerous others.  Estimates are that 4 million people will die of tobacco-related illnesses worldwide this year; by the 2020's, the death toll will increase to 10 million deaths per year.   In the US, cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 300,000 to 430,000 deaths. . .more than 10 times as many as die from breast cancer). 

Numerous studies have shown that women are more negatively affected by smoking than men.  While smoking overall has decreased more than 40% since 1965, lung cancer deaths among women have increased 150% between 1974-1994 compared to only a 20% increase in men.  Half of all heart related causes of death in women younger than 65 are due to cigarette smoking.   Many women who smoke are surprised to find out that lung cancer surpasses breast cancer as the leading cancer killer of women.  In fact, one out of 3 cancer deaths are related to smoking.  But tobacco use does not just cause lung cancer:  it is linked to cancers of the mouth and throat, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, breast and cervix.

Not all consequences of smoking in women are fatal, but they are potentially serious.  For example, women who smoke are 4 times as likely to have serious side effects from birth control pills.  Women who smoke are twice as likely to lose their vision, even after they quit.

Parental smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for children and teens beginning to smoke.  Maternal smoking influences their children even in utero:  women who smoke during pregnancy have babies that weigh, on average, 7 ounces less than babies of nonsmoking mothers.  These babies show nicotine levels in their blood equal to adult levels. . .and they go through nicotine withdrawal in their first days of life.

Mothers who smoke have children with significantly higher rates of ear infections, even when the mothers report that they "never" smoke in front of the child.  In addition, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) occurs more often in babies of smoking moms.

Created: 9/30/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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