Stop Smoking, Now!
publication date: Mar 31, 2011
While smoking has declined over the years and decades, about one in five American adults still smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use still remains the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause about 500,000 premature deaths annually in the U.S.
The indictments against smoking are staggering, but just consider a few more statistics: 20 percent of all heart-disease fatalities, 30 percent of all cancer deaths, and 25 percent of all residential fire casualties are attributable to smoking.
Despite the clear and urgent health warnings about smoking that have been sounded for more than four decades, about 20 percent of adults still smoke. The 1964 "Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health," prepared under Dr. Luther L. Terry, was the first compilation of the ills caused by tobacco usage. Thanks to this report and thousands of subsequent medical studies, there's irrefutable proof of how and why a half million Americans die annually from smoking. Tobacco contains countless poisonous chemicals including the highly addictive nicotine, carbon monoxide, ammonia, aldehydes, and tars. The regular inhalation of this toxic brew causes heart disease, stroke, emphysema (and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), lung cancer, and numerous other cancers including those of the esophagus, mouth, kidney, and bladder. So-called secondhand smoke has also been proven to cause heart and respiratory problems, including lung cancer, in spouses and others frequently around smokers.
As people die due to continued usage, the tobacco industry must, of course, recruit its next generation of customers and victims. Smoking campaigns are targeted at young adults, with great success: Four in ten adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five smoke. In addition, one in eight kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen smokes despite the fact that it's illegal for minors to buy tobacco.
A Million Dollar Habit
Smokers know the unhealthy and often fatal effects of smoking. They also know that, at $5 per pack, cigarette smoking is expensive. But let me crunch some numbers for you and provide a new financial perspective. Take a smoker who goes through just one pack per day. In addition to the health damage, consider the opportunity cost of having spent that money on smoking rather than investing it.
If you took that $5 per day and invested in a diversified portfolio of stocks in a tax-advantaged retirement account, over 20 years, you'd have about $160,000, and in 40 years, you'd have amassed approximately $1,240,000. At just one pack per day, cigarette smoking is a million-dollar habit! Those who smoke more than one pack a day have a multi-million dollar habit.
Help With Quitting
In recent years, public education has made some progress in getting Americans to light up less and quit altogether. However, change has been slow and far too many people still smoke way too much. The following are among the more useful smoking cessation resources and programs:
- The Public Health Service convened a panel of smoking cessation experts to compile a summary of treatment protocols that have proven effective. While targeted to physicians, it contains a treasure trove of useful information on quitting smoking.
- QuitNet grew out of research done at the Boston University School of Public Health and now operates as a private company, partly owned by B.U. To access the website, you must register. One of their basic premises is that social support is important to stopping smoking.
- Nicotine Anonymous (415-750-0328) is another twelve-step program, albeit with fewer meeting locations than some other twelve-step programs.
- Hazelden Foundation (800-257-7800) offers an inpatient smoking cessation program in Minnesota.
- Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has two excellent booklets to convince you to quit smoking and to help you quit smoking.
Motivation to Quit
Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.
- 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate drops.
- 12 hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide levels in your blood drops to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your heart attack risk begins to drop. Your lung function begins to improve.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year after quitting: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
- 5 to 15 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker's.
- 10 years after quitting: Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's. Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker's.