Smoking’s deadly risks
- coquitline.org, a Colorado-based program that offers free nicotine patches
- More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.
- Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times.
- Cigarette smoking increases the risk of men and women developing lung cancer by 25 times and 25.7 times, respectively.
- Cigarette smoking can cause cancer in the following areas of the body: bladder, blood, cervix, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney and ureter, larynx, liver, oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils), pancreas, stomach, trachea, bronchus and lungs.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, but did you know that smoking kills more people annually than car accidents, illegal drugs, alcohol, gun violence and HIV combined?
Smoking-related cancers and chronic diseases harm the entire body — nearly every organ — contributing to smoking’s title as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Annually, smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths, or 1 out of 5 total deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many studies have shown that any amount of smoking can cause increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and that even light smokers have an increased risk of developing cancer.
“Light or intermittent smoking caries nearly the same risk for cardiovascular disease as heavy smoking,” said Dr. Shannon Garton, family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Edwards Medical Office.
The list of smoking’s possible health effects reads more like a medical textbook of every potential disease or ailment in the human body. Cancers caused by smoking include head or neck, lung, leukemia, stomach, kidney, pancreas, colon, bladder and cervix. The list of chronic diseases caused by smoking includes stroke, blindness, gum infection, aortic rupture, heart disease, pneumonia, hardening of the arteries, chronic lung disease and asthma, reduced fertility and hip fracture, according to the CDC.
“Cigarettes are toxic in multiple ways. … There are more than 4,000 carcinogenic compounds in tobacco smoke,” Garton said.
It’s never too late to quit
With no safe level of smoking, physicians are often tasked with trying to educate their patients about its dangers. Educating smokers also helps motivate them to quit, she said.
“Tobacco products are highly addictive because of the nicotine they contain. When tobacco is smoked, the nicotine goes straight to the brain very quickly. This hits the brain’s reward center and adrenaline is released, causing the heart to beat faster, blood pressure to rise, veins to constrict,” Garton said. “Because it goes to the reward center of the brain, it is highly addictive, making a person want to use again.”
Quitting nicotine causes withdrawal symptoms, and therefore this can make stopping nicotine difficult for many users. In the Kaiser Permanente system, medications such as nicotine replacement patches and Bupropion may be covered at a very low or no charge for patients who wish to quit.
“For anyone who would like to quit, they should contact their insurance company to see if there is coverage for nicotine patches or other medications which can help in the quitting process,” Garton said. “There is a higher quitting success rate with patients who use nicotine replacement.”
Garton said that patients working on quitting smoking for good face many challenges and temptations. It’s important to stay in smoke-free zones and avoid areas or behaviors that may trigger the urge to smoke.
“For example, if you like a cigarette with coffee, then switch to tea while trying to quit,” she said. “And by all means, if a smoker is not successful the first time, or if a person relapses, they should definitely try again.”
For patients without a desire to quit, it’s important to review the types of adverse effects the patient may be experiencing from smoking, she said.
“With a deeper understanding of the risks, this may turn into future motivations to quit,” she said.
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