Have you ever smoked? Ever sneak a cigarette when you were a teen, behind the school or someplace where your parents didn't see you and your friends thought you were cool? How about now as an adult? Are you a social smoker, only lighting up when it's acceptable at a club or restaurant, or perhaps at someone's home or a party?
Ever meet some guys at a cigar bar for some male bonding involving thick tobacco smoke and good times? Way back in the days before smoking was seen as a major health issue, it was deemed cool to smoke. Most of the major Hollywood stars smoked on screen, and the public emulated those images. When you smoke, how does that make you feel?
Are you in control, or is the nicotine in control of you? Have you tried to quit; and if so, how many times? According to the National Institutes of Health and Medline Plus, tobacco use is the most common preventable cause of death. About half of the people who don't quit smoking will die of smoking-related problems.
Quitting smoking is important for your health and provides many benefits. Soon after you quit, your circulation begins to improve, and your blood pressure starts to return to normal. Your sense of smell and taste return and breathing starts to become easier. In the long term, giving up tobacco can help you live longer.
Your risk of getting cancer decreases with each year you stay smoke-free. Quitting is not easy. You may have short-term effects such as weight gain, irritability and anxiety. Some people try several times before succeeding. There are many ways to quit smoking. Some people stop "cold turkey." Others benefit from step-by-step manuals, counseling or medicines or products that help reduce nicotine addiction.
Your health care provider can help you find the best way for you to quit. There are some very ugly facts about smoking, according to Smoking-Cessation.org. Here's how smoking affects your body internally:
A. Smokers have a limited sense of smell.
B. Both active and passive smokers are at a greater risk of developing chest infections.
C. Smokers are at greater risk of developing cancer, especially in the throat, lungs.
D. People with asthma who are exposed to smoke may experience significant worsening of their condition.
Each cigarette you smoke shortens your life by 14 minutes...do the math. That's over 4 hours per pack! According to Smoking-Cessation.org, you can eat salad and broccoli till your face turns green, exercise more than Madonna, watch your carbs and your calories, but if you don't stop smoking you're destroying your insides.
Did you know that smoking is the leading cause of blindness? Smoking is one of the most common causes of visual impairment and blindness in wealthy countries. The blood vessels in the retina are sensitive, and can be easily damaged by smoke. Substances in cigarettes cause a kind of chemical inflammation in the ocular conjunctiva, giving rise to a bloodshot appearance in the mucous membrane of the eye, as well as an itchy sensation.
Smoking can cost you your eyesight, according to Smoking-Cessation.org. Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the retina of the eye, resulting in the gradual loss of eyesight. Today, macular degeneration is the most common form serious visual impairment and blindness in the wealthy countries of the world.
The condition affects heavy smokers twice as much as non-smokers. Unfortunately, the risk of macular degeneration is only slightly reduced after giving up smoking. In addition to macular degeneration, smokers also run an increased risk of cataracts. According to a major American study, smokers are 60 per cent more likely to suffer from age-related cataracts. This applies particularly to the form of cataract that appears on the inner surface of the lens of the eye.
Cataracts of this type (posterior subcapsular cataracts) affect smokers 2.6 times more than non-smokers. Additionally, smoking affects these parts of your mouth
B. The floor of the mouth, under tongue.
C. The tongue.
D. The palate.
E. The root of the tongue.
Smoking causes oral cancer. According to Smoking-Cessation.org, smoking is dangerous for your teeth and gums. The teeth may fall out, as smoking can cause periodontal disease. Smoking delays the healing of wounds, and stains the teeth, gums and fillings. The worst consequence is the increased risk of mouth cancer.
Periodontal disease is a condition where the tissues that support the teeth - the gums and the bone - slowly deteriorate, and the teeth become loose and finally fall out. Anyone can suffer from periodontal disease, but smoking increases the risk. Heavy smokers are six times more likely to suffer from periodontal disease than non-smokers.
The risk of contracting periodontal disease depends on how much you smoke. If you smoke 30 cigarettes a day, you are six times more likely to contract periodontal disease than a non-smoker. If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day or less, the risk is still three times higher than for a non-smoker. If you smoke, the risk of contracting cancer of the mouth is four times higher than for a non-smoker.
Smoking kills your looks. The appearance of wrinkled, pale and grayish skin is four to five times more frequent in smokers than non-smokers. In 1971 an extensive study showed that the facial skin of long-term smokers was so terribly wrinkled that they looked as if they were 20 years older. Talk about not aging well!
Smoking causes the microscopic muscle fibers in the walls of the blood vessels to contract. This is why smokers have pale skin. Some smokers even say their fingers become cold when they smoke. A single cigarette can reduce the blood supply to the skin for more than an hour. Giving up smoking will improve the blood supply to the skin and give previously pale skin a more 'natural' appearance.
A smoker's skin is also wrinkled because its vitamin A content is low compared with that for a non-smoker. Vitamin A protects the skin against strong chemical substances that may damage or destroy it. According to the American Heart Association and AmericanHeart.org, about 23 percent of adult men and 19 percent of adult women smoke.
This figure is down considerably from 42 percent in 1965. Changes in smoking habits during the late 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s have very likely contributed to the drop in cardiovascular deaths that occurred at the same time in the United States.
- After one year off cigarettes, the excess risk of coronary heart disease caused by smoking is reduced by half. After 15 years of abstinence, the risk is similar to that for people who've never smoked.
- In 5 to 15 years, the risk of stroke for ex-smokers returns to the level of those who've never smoked.
- Male smokers who quit between ages 35 to 39 add an average of 5 years to their lives. Female quitters in this age group add 3 years. Men and women who quit at ages 65 to 69 increase their life expectancy by 1 year.
More than four in five smokers say they want to quit. And each year about 1.3 million smokers do quit. With good smoking cessation programs, 20 to 40 percent of participants are able to quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence, new, effective clinical treatments for tobacco dependence have been identified in the past decade.
Combining interventions such as physician advice and follow-up with nicotine gum and behavior modification may increase success rates. Smoking cessation programs seem especially helpful for people who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day. Since 1965, more than 49 percent of all adults who have ever smoked have quit. Amazingly enough, though, there are 52 MILLION Americans who are cigarette smokers. 400,000 people in America DIE every year due to smoking related illnesses.
There is no reason to remain in the count. Smokers are generally less healthy than nonsmokers, according to SurgeonGeneral.gov. Smoking affects the immune system. Illnesses in smokers last longer and smokers are more likely to be absent from work. Smokers also use more medical services, both outpatient services and hospitalizations about 25% more than nonsmokers.
All in all, smoking low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes does not make smoking safer. It does not offer a health benefit over smoking regular cigarettes. This conclusion supports and adds to the findings of a scientific monograph on low-tar cigarettes that the National Cancer Institute issued in 2001.
Unfortunately, many smokers still view low-tar cigarettes as a safer alternative. The only way to avoid the health hazards of smoking is to quit completely. In fact, where the health hazards of smoking are concerned, there are still many areas where public awareness and understanding needs to be improved.
Even though virtually everyone knows generally that smoking is bad for health, many fewer people truly believe how bad smoking is. On average, smokers lose more than 13 years of life. Those are years that could have been productive, years that could have been spent enjoying children and grandchildren. Those lost years are not just numbers; they are tragic losses.
Here are some tips for quitting a smoking habit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
1. Get Ready
--Set a quit date.--Change your environment.--Get rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work.--Don't let people smoke in your home.--Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what did not.--Once you quit, don't smoke NOT EVEN A PUFF!
2. Get Support and Encouragement
--Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you are going to quit and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out where you can see them.--Talk to your health care provider (e.g., doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist, or smoking cessation coach or counselor).--Get individual, group, or telephone counseling. Counseling doubles your chances of success.--The more help you have, the better your chances are of quitting. Free programs are available at local hospitals and health centers. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area.
3. Learn New Skills and Behaviors
--Try to distract yourself from urges to smoke. Talk to someone, go for a walk, or get busy with a task.--When you first try to quit, change your routine. Use a different route to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place.--Do something to reduce your stress. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.--Plan something enjoyable to do every day.--Drink a lot of water and other fluids.
4. Get Medication and Use It Correctly
--Medications can help you stop smoking and lessen the urge to smoke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved seven medications to help you quit smoking: Bupropion SR Available by prescription.Nicotine gum Available over-the-counter. Nicotine inhaler Available by prescription. Nicotine nasal spray Available by prescription. Nicotine patch Available by prescription and over-the-counter. Nicotine lozenge Available over-the-counter. Varenicline tartrate Available by prescription.
--Ask your health care provider for advice and carefully read the information on the package. All of these medications will at least double your chances of quitting and quitting for good. Nearly everyone who is trying to quit can benefit from using a medication. However, if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, nursing, under age 18, smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day, or have a medical condition, talk to your doctor or other health care provider before taking medications. To find out more about prescriptions, contact your health care provider.
5. Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult Situations
--Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. The following are some difficult situations you may encounter:a.)
Alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.b.) Other smokers: Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.--Weight gain: Many smokers will gain some weight when they quit, usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal quitting smoking. Some quit-smoking medications may help delay weight gain.--Bad mood or depression: There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking. Some smoking cessation medications also lessen depression.
If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other health care provider. The bottom line for anyone who smokes is that you will eventually cause yourself irreparable damage to your own health. Long term exposure to smoking is deadly, and even short term exposure is bad. Learn to live without the need to smoke. If you need help, get it. There are plenty of resources and support systems available to help you. Kick the habit, and kick your own butt!
About the Author
Mark Roberts has almost 30 years experience in sales and marketing in the tax, insurance, health care and investment markets. As the Manager of National Accounts for Careington International, Mark serves as the account manager to Careington clients including financial institutions, insurance companies and national association groups.
As a licensed life, health and accident insurance agent, Mark regularly participates in employer benefit enrollments for worksite products offered through Careington's affiliate, Core Five Solutions, a nationwide insurance agency and licensed third party administrator. In addition, Mark maintains a health care blog, www.yourbesthealthcare.blogspot.com ,and contributes dental and medical articles to the Cypress Time, www.thecypresstimes.com.
Careington International Corporation is a licensed Discount Medical Plan Organization. Dedicated to improving the health and well-being of individuals, Careington's health and wellness solutions are designed to complement traditional health insurance and provide substantial savings for under-insured or uninsured individuals.
Careington combines its flagship non-insurance discount plans with insurance plans administered through its affiliate, Core Five Solutions, Inc., to create cost-effective solutions that improve the affordability and accessibility of quality health care. For more information, call (866) 222-2558 or visit www.careington.com.