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Smoking Your Life Away

The American Cancer Society estimates that each year, close to 435,000 people die from tobacco use. If two 747 jets crashed every day, killing everyone on board, we would be outraged! Most would opt to drive to faraway destinations (or just not go) rather than ever play Russian roulette with an airplane. Yet, each day more Americans die due to the effects of tobacco use than would die in this fictitious, unacceptable airplane scenario. The fact is that cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, illegal drugs, car wrecks, homicide, suicide, and AIDS combined!

Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, and larynx (voice box), and is a significant contributor to the development of cancers of the urinary bladder, pancreas, liver, cervix, kidney, stomach, colon, and rectum. In all, it accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths, but the toll does not stop there.

Only half of the smoking-related deaths are due to various types of cancer. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The latest data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) show that the leading causes of death in America are, (in descending order of frequency):

1. Heart disease
2. Cancer
3. Stroke
4. Chronic lung disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema)
5. Accidents
6. Diabetes
7. Influenza/pneumonia
8. Alzheimer’s disease

Cigarette smoking is directly responsible for a high percentage of the first four causes of death, and it worsens the severity of pneumonia and influenza, making it more likely that a person who contracts these infections will ultimately die from them. With this in mind, it is easy to see how female smokers lose an average of 14.5 years of life due to smoking.

Unfortunately, the impact of widespread tobacco use in America goes far beyond those who partake in this deadly substance. Even secondhand smoke can be deadly. An estimated 35,000-40,000 yearly deaths from heart disease are believed to be directly related to exposure to the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke. Another 3,000 yearly lung cancer deaths are felt to be directly related to secondhand smoke. Exposure to tobacco smoke is also believed to increase the number and severity of asthma attacks in up to 1 million asthmatic children each year.

Now let us take a look at the good news; the benefits of quitting this dangerous habit. The bottom line is this, former smokers live longer than current smokers. Close to half of all Americans who continue to smoke will one day die because of their habit. Are these odds acceptable to you?

No doubt, tobacco is a highly addictive substance, and you may need help kicking the habit. But what wise choice do you have? No acceptable alternative exists. Now that you know the facts, what are you willing to do? If you cannot stop on your own, get help. There are many local and national agencies that can help you reach your goal. A few are listed below.

www.smokefree.gov - www.cancer.org - www.quitsmokingnews.com

Do it for yourself. Do it for your loved ones. But no matter why you do it, just do it!

[Statistics for this article were obtained from the American Cancer Society.]
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Content copyright © 2013 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
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