Smoking: There are No Upsides
When I was in high school, my mother would embarrass me when it came to smoking. If she smelled cigarette on any young person who came to see me, she would launch into her lecture on the dangers of smoking. Full on lecture, and she knew a lot of facts. Now I admire her because she had the courage and the concern to want to help those she cared about.
Simply put, smoking shortens lives. Smokers die about 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
Some people think that somehow they are immune. The saddest case I was ever involved with was a woman who died at 44, leaving a four-year-old son and teenage daughters. What a tragedy! Early heart disease and cancer have threatened many more of my patients in their 40s and 50s.
The Dangers of Smoking
I always felt it was my duty to inform patients about the dangers of smoking, but what about friends and family? Do I have the courage to bring up the topic? I assume they know, but maybe they don’t. Just in case they don’t know the whole story, I’m going to describe it for all of you.
- Smokers have a higher risk of developing cancer of the oral and nasal cavity, pharyngeal and laryngeal area, lung, esophagus, liver, stomach, pancreas, kidney, ureter, colon, ovary, cervix, and bladder, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada — nearly one in five deaths. Smoking is related to more than 85 per cent of lung cancer cases. The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke, the greater the risk, although even five cigarettes per day can have significant adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.
- American statistics show that smoking causes more deaths per year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related deaths. Smoking causes more than 10 times as many deaths than all the wars fought by the U.S.
- Not only has cancer increased, but also cardiovascular disease — and by significant numbers: two to four times more coronary artery disease and two to four times increase in stroke. There is also greater risk of hypertension and blood clots.
- The respiratory system is obviously affected, causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), worsening asthma. Smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than non-smokers.
- Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have pre-term birth, still-birth, low birth weight babies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ectopic pregnancy, cleft lip and palate in infants, and hypertension during pregnancy. Risk of birth defects and miscarriage escalates.
- Men are not immune to this awful drug; it reduces fertility.
- As we age, it worsens the aging process by increasing osteoporosis, disease of gums and teeth resulting in tooth loss, risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically, partially related to poor eating habits, weight gain and lack of exercise. When poor lifestyle choices are combined with smoking, the risks are 30 to 40 per cent higher for developing diabetes and the cardiovascular risks are considerably increased.
I ask you — what is the upside to this habit? There are all the health risks, significant costs to buy cigarettes, you smell bad and you have more facial wrinkles!
What Happens When You Stop Smoking
But, there is some good news! Our bodies will try their best to recover. Look what happens after you stop:
- 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your pulse and blood pressure recovers
- 8 hours: you can breathe easier and your oxygen level improves
- 24 hours: your lungs start to clear out the mucus, and coughing it up is the first sign of recovery
- 48 hours: your sense of taste and smell begins to return after one year and your heart attack risk is cut in half
- 10 years: your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half
- 10 to 15 years: your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who has never smoked.
It seems to me there is a point of no return with your lungs. Once the alveoli have been sufficiently destroyed, they will never return to normal.
My plea is to take a few minutes, consider your future and how you are jeopardizing it by the simple act of smoking. It is the single most important change you can make to improve your life. If you can’t do it for yourself, think of those around you. There is never a perfect moment in your life when you will be completely stress-free. Do it now!
Mom would be proud.