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It can be one of the hardest things to do: quit smoking. But medical experts say it can also be one of the best things you can do for your health. It can also save you money.
Just use our handy calculator to compute how much it costs in a year to smoke. Then read on to learn about the health costs - and find out some tips that have helped others quit for good.
One in every five deaths in the United States is smoking-related according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, the CDC points out about 10 million people in the United States have died from causes attributed to smoking (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health in 1964. (Read about "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease" "Coronary Heart Disease" "Respiratory System") Two million of those deaths were the result of lung cancer. (Read about "Lung Cancer") Heavy smokers, or those who smoke over a pack of cigarettes a day, can find themselves at the greatest risk. The CDC also says exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among American adults. Scientific studies also link secondhand smoke with heart disease. In addition, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says 90 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco. (Read about "Oral Cancer")
According to the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC), women have seen the highest increase in smoking related diseases. Since 1960, lung cancer deaths in women are up 400 percent, according to CDC. NWHIC says tobacco use by pregnant women has been linked with increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and mental retardation. (Read about "Healthy Pregnancy")
Smoking is also considered a trigger for asthma, according to the American Lung Association (ALA), and secondhand smoke worsens the health of children with asthma. (Read about "Asthma") Studies also show that cigarette smokers have more than double the risk of a heart attack compared to non-smokers; and according to ALA, the earlier you start smoking, the greater the health risk. (Read about "Coronary Heart Disease") Smoking is also considered a risk factor for developing cataracts, according to CDC. (Read about "Cataracts") Smoking can also increase your risk of developing pneumothorax, a condition that can cause the lung to collapse. (Read about "Pneumothorax")
Spit tobacco (also called snuff or chewing tobacco) is not a safe alternative either. According to CDC, one "dip" of smokeless tobacco can deliver as much nicotine as several cigarettes. CDC also says that using spit tobacco can cause cracked lips, bleeding gums and sores of the mouth that never heal. (Read about "Oral Health") Worst of all, use of spit tobacco can cause mouth cancer and other kinds of cancer. (Read about "Oral Cancers") Chewing tobacco also may play a role in heart disease and stroke. (Read about "Stroke")
Cigars and pipes are not free of health risks either. Even if you don't inhale, you are still absorbing toxins through your mouth. Studies show cigars and pipe smoking can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Waterpipes or hookahs are also dangerous to health. Waterpipe smokers may actually inhale more smoke, especially if they are smoking for a longer period of time or inhaling more deeply. In a social situation, where multiple smokers share a waterpipe, there is also the risk of catching an infectious disease.
Another alternative - electronic cigarettes - produce vapor instead of smoke, but your body is still absorbing toxins.
There is some good news, though. The American Heart Association says that when you quit, your risk of disease diminishes rather quickly. Eventually your risk will be about the same as that of someone who never smoked.
Unfortunately, it can be very hard to quit because nicotine is a very addictive drug. (Read about "Addiction") CDC says that for some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Often people make multiple tries, before finally being able to quit. As a result, you may worry that - since you've tried before and failed - it will never happen.
It can help if you stop focusing on the past and start picturing yourself as a non-smoker. Think of the benefits you can have: better health, better breath and more money because you won't be spending it on tobacco products.
The U.S. Public Health Service says that the more support you have, the greater your chance for success. Some of its recommendations:
Some other ideas from the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association include:
Some smokers may want to consider using medication to try to stop. There are nicotine and non-nicotine medications available. Examples include:
According to NWHIC, the nicotine substitutes can help you work on the "habit" and "social" parts of quitting first. Generally, you quit smoking, and use the nicotine substitute for one or two months, then gradually cut down on the nicotine substitute until you stop that, too. Some nicotine substitutes require a prescription; gum and patches can be bought without one. There is also non-nicotine medication that acts at sites in the brain (Read about "The Brain") affected by nicotine and may help ease withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend a non-nicotine antidepressant. Keep in mind, however, that all medications can have side effects. For example, nicotine replacement gums and lozenges can sometimes cause dizziness, headaches and rapid heart rate. (Read about "Headaches" "Arrhythmia") Some non-nicotine anti-smoking medications have been linked to severe mental problems. So always talk to your doctor or healthcare provider first, especially if you are pregnant or have heart or other medical problems. (Read about "Medicine Safety")
Whatever method you choose to quit, remember that there will still be temptation, even after you quit. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, most relapses occur within the first 3 months after quitting, so don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Try again, remembering that most people try several times before they finally quit.
Here are some difficult situations the Surgeon General suggests you watch for:
If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider.
Above all, many former smokers say that once you do stop, NEVER have that first cigarette again. Even if you tell yourself it will be "just this one," that first cigarette can lead you right back where you started.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
© Concept Communications Media Group LLC