While it is encouraging that current smoking has declined from nearly 21 of every 100 adults (20.9 percent) in 2005 to about 15 of every 100 adults (15.1 percent) in 2015, cigar, pipe and hookah are on the rise. No matter how you use tobacco, smoking kills people.
Risk of Disease
The risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers is related to total lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke, as measured by the number of cigarettes smoked each day, the age at which smoking began, and the number of years a person has smoked. There is no way to accurately calculate a person's risk of getting cancer, but the more you smoke and the longer you do it, the greater your risk.
The good news is that the risk of having smoking-related illnesses can be reduced by quitting smoking. The risk of lung cancer is less in people who quit smoking than in people who continue to smoke the same number of cigarettes per day, and the risk decreases as the number of years since quitting increases.
People who stop smoking at younger ages experience the greatest health benefits from quitting. Those who quit in their 30s may avoid most of the risk due to tobacco use. However, even smokers who quit after age 50 substantially reduce their risk of dying early. The argument that it is too late to quit smoking because the damage is already done is not true. It is never too late to quit smoking.
Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds are harmful, and about 70 can cause cancer. People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and early death. You are never too old to quit.
Stopping smoking is associated with the following health benefits:
• Lowered risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer.
• Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the blood vessels outside your heart).
• Reduced heart disease risk within 1 to 2 years of quitting.
• Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. While these symptoms may not disappear, they do not continue to progress at the same rate among people who quit compared with those who continue to smoke.
• Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States).
• Reduced risk for infertility in women of childbearing age. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Great American Smokeout
Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event. Encourage someone you know to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. According to the American Cancer Society, by quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and raises awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good.
This year, Nov. 16 is the day. If you are a smoker, why not use this as an incentive to quit. Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guide books, and the encouragement of friends and family members.
If you need help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). This is a free telephone support service that can help people who want to stop smoking or using tobacco. Callers are routed to their state quitlines, which offer several types of quit information and services. These may include:
• Free support, advice, and counseling from experienced quitline coaches
• A personalized quit plan
• Practical information on how to quit, including ways to cope with nicotine withdrawal
• The latest information about stop-smoking medications
• Free or discounted medications (available for at least some callers in most states)
• Referrals to other resources
• Mailed self-help materials
In addition, Fisher-Titus Medical Center also has been providing smoking cessation help since 1995. Our Tobacco Treatment Specialist can help guide you to the right resources as you take the step to quit smoking. For more information, contact 419-663-1975, Ext. 6320.
Dr. Mohamed Swedeh is board certified in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine. Dr. Swedeh is medical director of the pulmonary medicine department at Fisher-Titus Medical Center and is also member of the medical staff at Fisher-Titus. He practices at Fisher-Titus Pulmonary Medicine in Norwalk.