By Dr. Grace Chen O'Neil, Tripler Army Medical Center Emergency DepartmentNovember 26, 2018
HONOLULU (Nov. 26, 2018) - November is Tobacco Cessation Month, a good time to learn more about how smoking harms your health. Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year (about one in five deaths) in the United States, and men and women who smoke have an increased risk of death from all causes, which is why cigarette smoking is known as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. Sites include bladder, blood, cervix, colorectal, esophagus, kidney, larynx, liver, mouth, pancreas, stomach, and lung. Smoking also increases the risk of dying from cancer. It causes 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths, and more women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
Smoking causes lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and most cases of lung cancer, and it produces 80 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smokers are more likely to die for COPD than non-smokers. Smoking can also trigger an asthma attack in patients with asthma.
The harmful habit also causes risk for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It damages blood vessels causing them to thicken and narrow, triggering your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. In this way, smoking causes blood clots which can lead to a stroke and heart disease, also reducing blood flow to your legs and skin. Even people who smoke less than five cigarettes daily can have early signs of heart disease.
Smoking not only harms all organs of the body, but it causes tooth discoloration, tooth loss, and wrinkles. It also creates a higher risk for osteoporosis, eye diseases (such as cataracts or macular degeneration), and increases the risk for rheumatoid arthritis and type two diabetes.
Smoking harms the reproductive system. It affects sperm, reduces fertility, and increases the risk of congenital disabilities and miscarriage. Also, smoking makes it more difficult for females to get pregnant. It also increases the risk of preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, and cleft lip palate.
On average, smoking can reduce your lifespan by ten years! Fortunately, after just one year of quitting, risks of having a heart attack drops sharply. After two to five years of stopping, the risk for stroke is equal to that of a non-smoker's. Ten years after smoking, the likelihood of having lung cancer is reduced by half.
How about vaping? Some may think E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes because they do not produce the tar or toxic gases in cigarette smoke, however, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, which leads to insulin resistance (type two diabetes). E-cigarettes are also highly addictive, and unfortunately, there is a rapidly increasing rate of teenage use of e-cigarettes. Nicotine can lead to changes in brain development in teenagers (causing attention deficit disorder and poor impulse control). Also, propylene glycol and glycerol (the main components of e-liquids) may decompose when heated by the vaporizer producing toxic compounds like formaldehyde. Flavored e-cigarettes can contain diacetyl associated with a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. Studies have shown using e-cigarettes is associated with a higher risk of continuing to smoke, so it is not the solution to quit smoking.
Quitting tobacco is the most important thing you can do to improve your health. If you need help, it is essential to know that TRICARE provides services, drugs, and support to help you quit tobacco. You don't need to be diagnosed with a tobacco-related illness to use tobacco cessation benefits. TRICARE and covers tobacco cessation counseling, and prescription and over-the-counter tobacco cessation products at no cost. For more information on TRICARE tobacco cessation services go to, tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/TobaccoCessationServices and tricare.mil/ucanquit2.