- 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 doing my part by offering this unusual series of columns. No scolding or exaggerated scare tactics. I'm giving you just the facts in a chain of bulletins.
You can stick these columns on bulletin boards and refrigerators. I recommend giving them to a smoker you love.
Here are more:
• Cigarette smokers die younger than nonsmokers. Smoking shortens lives by about 14 years.
• In the more than four decades since the first Surgeon General's report, smoking has killed an estimated 12 million Americans.
• Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing nearly 440,000 deaths each year.
• Because of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke ("second-hand smoke"), an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer every year.
• Tobacco use accounts for about one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States.
• Smoking causes almost 90 percent of lung cancers.
• More than seven million current and former smokers suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the name used to describe both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. About 85 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking.
• About 80 percent of all smokers would like to quit.
• Among U.S. adults, cigarette smoking has declined from about 42 percent of the population in 1965 to about 21 percent in 2005.
• It's never too late to quit. It doesn't matter how old you are or how long you've smoked. Within minutes of smoking the last cigarette, the body begins to restore itself. After two weeks, circulation and lung function improve. A year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's. At 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is cut in half. At 15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.
• Some smokers can just stop "cold turkey." Others need help with drugs and behavior modification. Relapse rates are the highest in the first few weeks; they go down substantially after about three months.
• One study found that the greatest reductions in cigarette use were achieved when smoking became more expensive and alternative recreational activities were provided.
• Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) are medicines that relieve a smoker's nicotine withdrawal symptoms. NRTs are available as patches, gums, inhalers, nasal sprays, or lozenges. NRTs should be used with behavioral modification.
• Bupropion (Zyban) is a prescription antidepressant that affects brain chemicals involved in craving nicotine.
• Varenicline (Chantix) reduces the pleasurable effects of smoking and helps reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
If you want to quit smoking and need help, contact one of the following organizations:
• American Cancer Society
, 1-800-227-2345, www.cancer.org; American Heart Association
, 1-800-242-8721, www.amhrt.org; American Lung Association, 1-800-586-4872, www.lungusa.org; National Cancer Institute, 1-800-422-6237, www.cancer.gov; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking & Health, www.cdc.gov/tobacco; Smokefree.gov, 1-800-784-8669, www.smokefree.gov.
• If you have used tobacco, you should have regular oral exams by your physician or dentist. These exams will detect changes that could be cancer or a precursor of cancer.
• Cancer and other conditions of the lung have the following symptoms: a new cough, a change in cough, coughing up blood, hoarseness, difficulty breathing, wheezing, headaches, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, general fatigue, and repeated respiratory infections. However, many lung cancers have no apparent symptoms until they are advanced.
• If you have been a tobacco user or continue to smoke or chew, it's critical that you get regular medical attention.