Your Last Cigarette Could Just Be…
“Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff
And if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette.”
– Tex Williams
As you can see from this number one hit from 1947, it is not new information that smoking kills. Cigarettes are required to carry warning labels. Smoking is now prohibited in many public places nationwide. Yet still, we fail to grasp the magnitude of the problem.
Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every year in the United States, or nearly 1 in every 5 deaths. More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all of the wars fought by the United States.
Secondhand smoke kills more than 41,000 people per year and is the cause of more than 400 cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) every year. 37%of U.S. children have been exposed to secondhand smoke. There is no safe level of smoke exposure.
Signs of cardiovascular disease can be seen in people who smoke as few as 5 cigarettes per day. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by 2 – 4 times and the risk of stroke by 2 – 4 times. It increases the risk of lung cancer by 25 times.
Smoking has been linked to a great many health conditions:
- coronary artery disease
- blood clots
- peripheral vascular disease
- lung cancer
- asthma in children
- cancer of the bladder, colon, esophagus, larynx, kidney, liver, oropharynx, pancreas, stomach, and acute myeloid leukemia
- preterm delivery
- cleft palate in children
- ear infections
- periodontal disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- sexual dysfunction in men
- infertility in men and women
So is it too late? These risks do not have to be permanent. Quitting smoking will improve your health considerably.
- 1 year after quitting, your risk of heart attack drops sharply
- 2 – 5 years after quitting, your risk of stroke is close to that of a non-smoker
- 5 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drops by half
- 10 years after quitting, your risk of lung cancer drops by half
So what can you do? Decide that now is the time to quit. Look at when you typically smoke and what triggers you to smoke. Try to replace smoking with a habit that is healthier. Talk to your primary care provider about medications and strategies that will support your decision to quit. It is not an easy process, but you can do it. Your health and the health of those around you depend on it.
By Michael Engel, MD, Family Practice Physician