Up in Smoke

An Apple A Day
Up In Smoke

Although public awareness about the dangers of tobacco smoke has heightened over recent years, the message has apparently not gotten through to many Americans. Approximately one-quarter of our adult population (over 40 million people) continues to smoke tobacco. Smoking is even on the rise among young Americans, with a thirty-percent increase over the past decade in teens.

Tobacco smoke contains at least 43 substances that cause cancer. Some of the chemicals in tobacco smoke include cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, wood alcohol, acetylene, and ammonia. Nicotine itself is a poison that in large doses can kill a person by stopping their muscles of respiration. The health consequences of smoking are substantial, including a dramatic increase in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, and brain.
Tobacco smoke also elevates the risk of many types of cancer. In the U.S. tobacco causes 1-in 5 cancer deaths (nearly 440,000 deaths per year). Bottom line, smoking will kill you. However, it’s never too late to quit. The risk of heart disease in the ex-smoker is equivalent to that of the non-smoker after fifteen years of being tobacco free.
Smoking cessation is not easy! In fact it may be one of the hardest things that you will ever do. The end result, however, can be very rewarding. On average, it takes people about ten attempts before finally being able to quit.
There are several products available for smoking cessation in the way of nicotine replacement. Nicotine gum and patches are available over-the-counter. The nicotine nasal spray and inhalers still require a doctor’s prescription. There is also an oral medication called bupropion (Zyban) that is used for smoking cessation. This medication is similar to many of the prescription antidepressant medications. Bupropion can be used in combination with the nicotine replacement products. Always use these products according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
No matter what method you choose to stop smoking, it’s important to pick a day to quit and stick to it! None of the above products are meant to replace will power. Because smoking is sometimes used as a “stress reliever”, it also helps to have an action plan in place for what to do instead of smoking during times of stress. You should also enlist the help of friends and family members. Let them know you’re attempting to quit and they’re likely to provide valuable support. You should also discard all smoking related items – cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, etc.
Quitting smoking is not easy. Attempting smoking cessation, though, is worth the health benefits that your body will receive. Now is the perfect time to make the commitment to quit since November marks the annual Great American Smokeout. This is an event held on the third Thursday of every November, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Ask your physician for advice in this matter and to help decide what methods of cessation are most appropriate for you. Further information can be obtained through the American Cancer Society web site (cancer.org). Good luck and Happy Halloween!

R.G. Roach, D.O.
The Center for Family & Preventive Medicine