World No Tobacco Day: Dangers of Smoking and Benefits of Quitting

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Quit Smoking

Good news: Fewer Americans are smoking than ever before, thus reducing their risk of lung cancer and the effects of secondhand smoke on those around them. In recognition of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, we’ve gathered the latest stats on smoking and resources for those who are also ready to kick smoking.

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The smoking rate in the United States has been declining for decades and is now at an all-time low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week. The CDC reported that just over 15 percent of adults in the United States smoked cigarettes in 2015, a 2 percent drop from the year before and largest one-year decline since 1993. It’s good news all around.

George Sieffert, MD, a physician with General & Vascular Associates, says tobacco abuse is the top cause of health problems and diseases in the world.

“It’s a serious addiction,” Dr. Sieffert says. “The fact that it’s self-inflicted lends even more to the frustration smokers experience when trying to quit.”

According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and harms nearly every organ in the body.

And after the age of 50, we start to lose 1 percent of our lung function, Dr. Sieffert says. “When you smoke, instead of losing 1 percent per year, you lose 3 percent.” 

Secondhand Smoke Dangers

Dr. Sieffert says that bystanders are susceptible to the same health issues resulting from direct tobacco smoking. Inhaling mainstream smoke (e.g., the plume of smoke a cigarette emits) is the same as smoking a cigarette yourself, which increases the risk of related health problems including heart disease, asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. 

“People are usually exposed to secondhand smoke at home and at the workplace,” he says. “Just because you don’t smoke, doesn’t mean you are safe.”

It’s Never too Late to Quit

Once you decide to quit smoking, the health benefits are almost immediate. The American Lung Association states that your heart rate returns to its normal level in as little as 20 minutes after quitting. Your lung function returns to a stable, albeit reduced, baseline from normal two to three weeks of quitting. And after 10 years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker.

Support to Stop

There are numerous programs aimed at helping those who want to kick the habit. Be Tobacco Free and the American Lung Association offer helpful information on how to quit, including the health benefits of quitting.

Dr. Sieffert says consistent follow-up is vital to long-term success in quitting. In addition to a tobacco secession program, peer support and counseling are also important when making the commitment to quit.

“Meeting with an expert in counseling every week or two will greatly improve treatment results,” Dr. Sieffert says.

Renown’s Quit Tobacco Program is an outpatient program that occurs weekly over the course of four weeks. To learn more, call 775-982-3941. Additional resources are available through the Nevada Tobacco Users Help Hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), and www.smokefree.gov.

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