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Smoking:†Why It's Time To Quit

Most smokers would rather fight than quit, but that fight is likely to be fatal.† Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the US:† cigarette smoking accounts for approximately 430,000 deaths each year in the US which means nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the US is related to cigarette smoking.†† Between one third and one half of all smokers will die prematurely of a disease caused by their tobacco use.†† Most Americans have been innundated with media messages about the importance of quitting smoking, while at the same time, those same media glamorize the highly addictive habit of cigarette smoking in ads or other portrayals.† Why can't smokers just stop smoking?† Because it's highly addictive.

We know a lot about smokers and their habits.† Most of it is not good news.†† Disturbingly, the rates of quitting smoking plateaued in the 1990's.† The rates of starting smoking plateaued in the 1980's, but they are now rising again!† Nearly 3,000 Americans under 18 begin to smoke regularly in the US each day.† In fact, 9 out of 10 smokers report that they started smoking before age 18. US cigarette use peaked in 1965 when 42% of adults smoked (50% of men and 32% of women).† In 1997, nearly 25% of American adults (one in 4) smoked cigarettes:† 28% of men and 22% of women.† (Source:† JAMA, 8/9/00).†

Smoking is an equal opportunity killer, but it is not an equal opportunity habit. †Smoking is more common among individuals with less education and lower income.† Smoking habits also vary by race:† 34% of Native American adults smoke; 26% of African American adults smoke; 25% of Caucasian American adults smoke; 20% of Hispanic American adults smoke; and 17% of Asian American adults smoke.† Parental smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for children and teens beginning to smoke.

Parental smoking increases the environmental hazards of smoking for their children.† Parental smoking increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, allergies, ear infections, and respiratory tract infections in their children as well as subsequent lung cancer from secondary smoke inhalation.

Most Americans are aware that smoking increases their risk of lung cancer, but it also causes cancer in the larynx, mouth, esophagus, and bladder.† Cigarette smoking causes cardiovascular, peripheral vascular, and cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic bronchitis.† It increases risk for numerous diseases and disorders including: chronic respiratory tract infections, osteoporosis, hearing loss, and visual impairment (cataracts and macular degeneration).† While most of these data originally came from studies of men, recent studies have confirmed that women who smoke like men, die like men.† In addition, smoking has additional risks in women:† it can decrease fertility, increase complications of pregnancy (including decreased fetal weight, increased preterm births, and increased preeclampsia), and increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Numerous studies indicate that stopping smoking has health benefits for men and women of all ages, even those who stop smoking after age 65 or after they already have significant cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.† How much a smoker benefits by stopping smoking depends upon how long they previously smoked, how much they smoked, their overall health status at the time they stopped smoking and how long has transpired since they stopped smoking.In general, a smoker's risk of premature death falls to the level of someone who never smoked after they've stopped for 10 years.†

Tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance.† After a habit is established, nicotine withdrawal causes physical withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, impatience, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, increased appetite, anxiety, and depressed mood.† These symptoms can begin within a few hours after the last cigarette, peak 2 to 3 days after quitting, and taper off over 1 to 3 weeks.

For more information about depression or other mental health issues, click here.

Created: 10/13/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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