- During my research on many health topics I have been amazed repeatedly by how pervasive the effects of smoking are on the body.
I quit smoking cigarettes in 1969, five years after the U.S. Surgeon General's first report said that smoking causes lung cancer. I was convinced the report was right when it came out, but it took me five years to develop the willpower to give up my Marlboros. But, at the time, I didn't realize that smoking could harm you in so many more ways.
The most recent Surgeon General's report on the health consequences of smoking said "Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body, causing many diseases and reducing your health in general." The report also said, "Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, reducing risks for diseases caused by smoking and improving your health in general."
If you smoke, you owe it to yourself to quit, and I believe you have an obligation to try to help others to quit. I'm going to do my part with this unusual three-part series. No scolding or exaggerated scare tactics. I'm going to give you just the facts in a chain of bulletins.
You can tack these columns up on bulletin boards and refrigerators. I recommend giving them to a smoker you love.
• Smoking damages the immune system and increases the risk of infections.
• The general health of smokers is inferior to the health of nonsmokers.
• Many illnesses in smokers last longer than in nonsmokers.
• After surgery, smokers have a greater risk of complications and a lower survival rate.
• When smokers get skin wounds, they take longer to heal than those in non-smokers.
• Women who smoke usually reach menopause sooner.
• Smokers tend to have lower bone density. Postmenopausal women who smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture than women who never smoked.
• Smoking cigarettes causes heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
• Smokers who have a heart attack are more likely to die within an hour of the heart attack than nonsmokers.
• Cigarette smoking doubles a person's risk for stroke.
• Cigarette smoking causes emphysema, which destroys a person's ability to breathe. An early warning sign of emphysema is "smoker's cough."
• Smokers commonly suffer from chronic bronchitis.
• Smoking causes peripheral artery disease that can affect the blood flow throughout the entire body.
• Smoking causes many types of cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States. These include cancer of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, bladder, pancreas, kidney and cervix.
• Smoking increases your risk of developing sciatica, a pain that runs down the back of your leg from spinal-disc pressure on a nerve. Smoking can block the body's ability to deliver nutrients to the discs of the lower back.
• Smoking causes cataracts.
• Smoking during pregnancy is linked with the higher risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, infant death, low birth weight, and sudden-infant-death syndrome.
• Smoking dulls your senses of taste and smell.
• Smoking makes your skin age faster.
• Smoking increases the risk of sexual impotence.
[In the second installment of this series on smoking, we'll report on nicotine, cigarettes of all kinds, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco.