One in five Americans will die from tobacco related illness, making smoking the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking substantially increases the risk of illness and death from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and many other potentially preventable illnesses. It is directly responsible for 87% of all deaths from lung cancer, which is the leading cause of all cancer deaths.
Smoking is also a major cause of cancer of the larynx, mouth, throat, bladder and esophagus, among others, according to the American Cancer Society. It is also linked to reproductive and early childhood problems such as increased risk for impotence and infertility, low birth weight, early delivery and even sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking can also put those who come into regular contact with the smoker at risk of inhaling secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is smoke that is passively inhaled. Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause approximately 50,000 deaths each year, in addition to 100,000 - 300,000 cases of pediatric bronchitis and asthma.
What Makes Smoking So Dangerous?
Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing or smokeless tobaccos are made from dried tobacco leaves. So called "smokeless cigarettes", such as chewing tobacco, also contains carcinogens. The longer you smoke, and the more cigarettes you smoke each day, the greater the potential damage to your system. However, it is clear that the body begins to repair itself almost immediately after you quit smoking, even if you smoked heavily. Your health and quality of life may quickly improve as soon as you stop smoking.
What Makes Smoking So Addictive?
There are more than 7,000 chemicals, including at least 69 that are known carcinogens, in tobacco smoke. Even “natural” products, such as herbal cigarettes, give off smoke and tar which contain many of the same dangerous chemicals. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco all contain a substance called nicotine.
Nicotine is highly addictive. Stopping smoking can lead to nicotine withdrawal, making it very difficult to quit smoking. Nicotine replacement medications, which are approved by the FDA, come in a variety of forms which can be purchased over the counter in patch, gum, or lozenge form, or with a doctor's prescription as an inhaler or nasal spray.
Prevention and Early Detection
Because smoking can affect many different parts of your body, there are no general guidelines for screening, however, you should tell your health-care provider if you have been exposed to smoking or if you have smoked for any length of time in the past. Your doctor may then make specific smoking-related screening and prevention measures a part of your personal health care regimen. Such programs may or may not include screening for lung cancer, heart disease, oral cancer and other diseases linked to smoking, in addition to a counseling program and/or nicotine replacement therapy to help you quit. Quitting smoking and being vigilant about reporting even small changes in your health will help decrease your risk for developing a smoking related illness in the future.