WITH WORRIES about the economy and stress over the Thanksgiving holiday, you may have forgotten that Nov. 18 was the Great American Smoke Out. This annual event encourages Americans who smoke and or use tobacco products to quit for a single day, with the hope that they will eventually quit for good.
Quitting for good is not only the healthiest thing to do, but the most intelligent, too. During the recent holiday, I had the displeasure of reminding a relative of the oh-so-obvious facts about the dangers of cigarette smoking.
I was shocked and immediately outraged when a loved one lit up without hesitation, not only in my presence, but more importantly, in the presence of my child. Like the lioness mother that I am, I promptly protested and verbally assaulted the relative, until the offender surrendered and went outside to smoke.
I thought to myself, really, it’s 2010 and people still don’t get it? It’s one thing to ruin your own health, which I’m certainly not recommending, but to subject innocent children to secondhand smoke is simply unconscionable.
The threat of cancer should be motivation enough to stop smoking. But if it isn’t, here are some other incentives.
A single cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known carcinogens. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides and ammonia are a few of the harmful compounds in cigarette smoke.
Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 cancers, and accounts for some 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S., according the American Cancer Society.
One in five deaths is linked to cigarette smoking, which equals an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year. And an estimated 8.6 million Americans suffer from chronic conditions related to smoking, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cardiovascular diseases.
Hard on kids
Approximately 26 percent of adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, and 50-67 percent of children under age 5 live in homes with at least one adult smoker, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, children’s exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year. The EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for as many as 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the United States annually.
According to the March of Dimes, smoking can cause complications during pregnancy, pose a serious threat to unborn babies, and even cause infertility. Furthermore, studies suggest that smoking increases the risk of pre-term delivery and premature and low-birth weight, which increases risk of serious health problems during infancy and chronic lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and learning problems) and even death.
Non-smokers pay, too
Of course, nonsmokers also pay a heavy price. An estimated 3,400 nonsmoking adults die of lung cancer annually as a result of breathing secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke also causes an estimated 46,000 deaths annually from heart disease in people who are not current smokers, according to Cancer Facts and Figures.
We all pay
It is estimated that smoking costs $167 billion annually in health-care costs.
According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing several chronic disorders: atherosclerosis (fatty buildups in arteries), several types of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (lung problems) and coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attacks.