It's 2013 - and I can't believe that there are still people who smoke. With all the information we have, all the education we do, and all the evidence around us about its dangers... still people smoke.
It may sound harsh — and I do realize how hard it is to quit. But seeing how smoking ravages the skin, the teeth, the chest; seeing how it causes deadly lung disease, how it increases the risk of all types of cancers, how it contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, makes it impossible to believe that this is not incentive enough to quit.
So, I think to myself, do people not understand what we're trying to communicate? Do they not believe that these things will happen to them? Why are people not getting the message? Why are there teenagers walking around in groups outside high schools smoking cigarettes? Why do I still see pregnant mothers puffing away? Why is that not a criminal offense? Most smokers have done the math and understand the costs, yet still dish out the dough for the impossible addiction. I am so confused.
Perhaps, it's because I see the end effects on a daily basis - youthful and otherwise healthy 60 year-olds wearing oxygen in the supermarket because they can't walk 10 feet without getting short of breath, patients who are missing parts of their tongue, mouth or jaw because of tumors invading their upper airway, patients for whom the flu virus becomes deadly because the body's natural defenses have been eradicated by tar, children who have developed asthma or die of SIDS because their parents smoke in the home.
Perhaps we're not doing a good enough job of conveying the severity of the disease of smoking addiction. Perhaps we are too accepting of smoking as a social norm. I mean, hospital employees, nurses, physicians who regularly see its ravages just as I do, huddle together in the hospital designated smoking zone, not too far from the entrance to hospitals every where you go.
I lost my aunt to lung cancer 12 years ago. She was 55 years old, weighed a very healthy 130 pounds, exercised every day and would light up a Marlboro Red as soon as she got home from her daily workout. Her blood pressure was normal, mammograms a-ok. But underlying her youthful appearance were vicious tumors that were diagnosed and ultimately took her life eight months later.
Most people I know have a similar story. And it's not like no one tells smokers about the dangers. But like those teenagers walking around outside, like pregnant mothers cocooning their children in smoke, like those who smoke cigarettes through tracheostomy holes in their necks, and like smokers all over the world, the "it's not going to happen to me" attitude is ultimately, I believe, what keeps the tobacco companies in business.
So, let me enlighten you in case you haven't yet gotten the message...let me fill you in if you're in the superhero category...let me give you a few more reasons why quitting will be the best thing you ever do for your health.
- Of the 7,000 chemicals in each cigarette, 69 are known to cause cancer. Here'sthe list of the 75,000 chemical doses a pack-a-day smoker will inhale in a year.
- Smoking has been directly linked to causing cancers of the blood (leukemia), cervix, bladder, esophagus, larynx, mouth, tongue, lung, pancreas, throat and stomach.
- Tobacco kills more Americans than all drugs, car accidents, fires, AIDS, murders and suicides COMBINED.
- 443,000 Americans and 25,500 New Yorkers will die this year from smoking. 3,400 New Yorkers will die as a result of second-hand smoke exposure. There are currently 389,000 children alive in New York State who will eventually die from smoking.
- Men who smoke will die an average of 13 years earlier than non-smoking males; female smokers 14 years earlier than non-smoking females. Quitting will add between 7-10 years to your life. Or 5-10 minutes for each cigarette that you don't smoke.
- Smoking causes wrinkles, hair loss, nail and teeth staining, fertility complications, reduced exercise capacity. If you're not convinced, see this slide show.
- Teenagers who smoke cigarettes are three times more likely to drink alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana and 22 times more likely to try cocaine. Smoking also increases the risk of other risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, fighting and not wearing a seatbelt.
This all may sound harsh. I may sound unsympathetic to the difficulties associated with addiction. But most of my patients who are smokers, don't want to keep smoking. They want to quit, they just don't know how. Most would probably agree with everything I have written. Many in fact, are disgusted with the way they smell and what they're doing to their bodies.
But there are many strategies to help help successfully kick butt out of your life. Patches, gum, inhalers, medications, hypnosis...are all viable options. Other tricks include quitting with a partner or enlisting the help of a coach. One of the best programs available in New York is the New York Smoker's Quitline www.nysmokefree.org The website contains multimedia information about successfully quitting for good. They offer free medications, vouchers and an online community of supporters to help you through. You can also create a smoking cessation plan with your physician or have a coach call you regularly to check on your progress.
Get with the program, folks. It's 2013. We are educated. We are gradually reducing the numbers of smokers and the numbers of deaths related to smoking. But we're still in the red, big time. We can help you. alk to your doctor NOW about how you can quit. When it comes to smoking, quitters are the biggest winners of all.
If that information is not enough to get you to seriously ask for help, consider watching these CDC videos for some motivation