Facts about Smoking
In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General first reported that smoking is hazardous to health. Yet today, millions of Americans still smoke. If you smoke, your chance of getting lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in men and women, is 10 times greater than that of a nonsmoker. You're also twice as likely to have a heart attack. Smoking is also the major cause of cancer of the mouth, larynx, throat, and esophagus, and has been linked to cancers of the kidney, bladder, and pancreas. Smoking also poses special dangers during pregnancy (see below). Men and women who smoke also are prone to develop lifelong conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These illnesses occur when the cilia, which are tiny "cleaning" hairs in the lungs, are destroyed, allowing tar to build up. By stopping smoking, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory ailments. See below for more information on quitting smoking, or see your doctor.
It's a well-known fact that cigarette smoking is bad for your health, but breathing the smoke of others can also be harmful. Approximately 2 percent of lung cancer deaths each year are thought to be caused by passive smoking. The immediate effects of breathing second-hand smoke include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the blood. The smoke from the burning end of a cigarette is filled with hundreds of dangerous chemicals and contains more tar and nicotine than the smoke that's directly inhaled. While adults can try to avoid being in smoky areas, children and infants are especially vulnerable. Studies show that babies whose parents smoke are admitted twice as often to hospitals for conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Children under the age of two are particularly susceptible because their lungs and immune system aren't yet fully developed. The symptoms of children who have asthma can also be aggravated by living with smokers. It isn't just cigarette smoke that's harmful, pipe and cigar smoke can be even more dangerous. For more information on the effects of smoking, talk with your doctor.
Smoking and Pregnancy
Smoking affects everything about pregnancy, including fertility, conception, the fetus's development, labor, and growth during childhood. So if you're planning to have a baby, the time to quit smoking is now, not after you get pregnant. The main consequence of smoking during pregnancy is that the fetus doesn't grow adequately and is often born with a low birth weight. Studies show that children who are born with low birth weight are on the average shorter, have more respiratory problems and do poorer in school than children whose mothers didn't smoke during pregnancy. If you smoke during pregnancy, you also have a 25 percent greater chance of having a miscarriage, premature birth or a stillbirth. A higher incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or "crib death" is also linked to mothers who smoke. Cigarette smoking interferes with the blood supply to the fetus. Several toxins enter the fetus's blood including carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide, which affect the fetus's supply of nutrients and oxygen. When you smoke just two cigarettes in a row, the oxygen you're depriving your baby of causes his heart rate to increase and affects his breathing-like motions. These are both signs of fetal distress. Even breathing smoke from others affects the fetus so to protect your baby, avoid smoky places. For more information on having a healthy baby, talk with your doctor.
How to Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking isn't easy but it can be done. Once you make the decision, establish a "quit" day. Mark it on your calendar and tell your family and friends so they can offer their support. Then make a list of personal reasons why you want to quit. Two of the best reasons are to live longer or to set a good example for your kids. Or maybe you're tired of stained teeth and fingers, bad breath, cigarette smell, burnt holes in your clothes and furniture, and the expense. When the "quit" day arrives, throw away all your cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays and take things one day at a time. Try to prepare yourself.
The first 10 days, you may feel tired, irritable, and develop headaches or a cough. You may also have problems concentrating as your body goes through nicotine withdrawal. These symptoms usually only last one to two weeks. To help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, drink plenty of water and eat at least three meals per day, exercise, avoid alcohol and get plenty of rest as nicotine goes out of your system. Taking deep breaths, keeping busy and rewarding yourself for not smoking are techniques that will help you handle cravings to smoke. Depending on your particular circumstances, your doctor may decide to prescribe nicotine chewing gum or a nicotine patch, to help you stop smoking. For more information, contact your doctor.