Stopping smoking has long, short-term benefits

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today's the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, a day you would probably expect to hear a litany of ills caused by tobacco.

If you're one of the 47 million Americans who still smoke, you probably know some of them by heart:

* Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and prematue death in the United States.

* Each year, smoking results in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths, of which about 49,500 are in nonsmokers as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.

* In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths.

* Smoking accounts for $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses.

* Tobacco use increases the risk of cancers of the lung, mouth, nasal cavities, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colorectum, liver, pancrease, kidney, bladder, uterine cervix, ovary and myeloid leukemia.

* Tobacco use accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.

* Cigarette use has had a dramatic decline since the Surgeon General's report in 1964, but 24 percent of men and 18 percent of women still smoked cigarettes in 2009, with almost 80 percent of them smoking daily.

* Cigars contain many of the same carcinogens found in cigarettes, but cigar smoking increased 124 percent from 1993 to 2007. And, smokeless tobacco products are also dangerous, increasing the risk of developing cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus and pancreas.

And, while many of us, especially young people, don't worry about long-term effects like those listed above, consider the short-term benefits of quitting smoking:

* 20 minutes after quitting, the heart rate and blood pressure drop.

* 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in blood return to normal.

* 1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia, the tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs, begin regaining normal function, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.

* A year after quitting, excess risk of coronary heart disease is half of a continuing smoker's.

* 5 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half; cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker; stroke risk drops to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

* 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is approximately half of that of a person who continues to smoke; risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.

* 15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary disease is that of a non-smoker's.

The American Cancer Society says that quitting smoking also lowers the risk of diabetes, allows blood vessels to work better and helps the heart and lungs.

And, although quitting when one is younger obviously will reduce one's health risk, more over the long haul, the American Cancer Society stresses that quitting at any age will give smokers time back on their lives that they would have lost had they continued to smoke.

More information on how to quit is available at http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

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