The legacy of our romanticization of cigarettes throughout most of the twentieth century is catching up to smokers and ex-smokers as they age and manifest more health complications. The skyrocketing COPD rates seen today represent those who picked up the habit decades ago, when cigarette smoking was less regulated.
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An impact on the rate of COPD is not expected to reflect recent antismoking legislation victories for some time to come. Fifty percent of smokers die of a smoking-related disease, and the life expectancy of one in four smokers is reduced by as much as years . Before the advent of widespread tobacco use in World War II, lung cancer was rare .
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So rare, in fact, that doctors were required to report cases of lung cancer to the federal government to help identify the local environmental cause of the condition among an affected population, much like reporting cases of mesothelioma today. Now, it is estimated that over 85 percent of all lung cancer is tobacco-related . While most people recognize that smoking is highly destructive for their lungs, many have yet to come to terms with how smoking affects the rest of the body.
Areas of the body damaged by smoking include:. The potential health benefits of smoking cessation are substantial. Stopping smoking reduces the future risk of tobacco-related diseases, slows the progression of existing tobacco-related disease, and improves life expectancy by an average of 10 years .
Quitting can bring immediate health benefits at any age, regardless of how long one has smoked. It is never too late to quit.
The carbon monoxide content of the airways within the lung can decrease to normal levels by the end of the first day. The risk of lung cancer falls by percent after a decade of abstinence. After 15 years of abstinence, the risk of heart attack and stroke falls to that of people who never smoked .
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The medical community has refined hospital discharge protocols for patients who suffered heart attacks by making sure, in general, that they are taking an ACE inhibitor, beta-blocker, aspirin, and statin. However, none of these important inventions come close to the impact that a patient can make on his or her health through smoking cessation. Physicians play an essential role in promoting this point as vigorously as they promote compliance to medical therapy. In many clinics, smoking status is just another vital sign that intake nurses record along with temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
Seventy percent of smokers want to quit, but only percent will be successful on their own . Long-term tobacco abstinence is extremely difficult and may require several attempts using multiple cessation strategies before a smoker achieves his or her ultimate goal. The average smoker has tried to quit six to nine times, and the quit rate only reaches percent with more effective interventions such as behavioral and pharmacological therapies .
It is imperative that physicians continue to work with patients on an ongoing basis to find cessation modalities that work for them. Nicotine replacement therapies such as the gum, patch or inhaler and Bupropion increase quit rates 1. Early results with Varenicline are also promising, with quit rates increased 2- to 3-fold over placebo. Bringing in social support systems such as friends and family may be effective as well. VitalSigns web site. Accessed December 3, Maugh TH. September 08, World Health Organization. The Tobacco Atlas.
Office of the Surgeon General of the United States. The health consequences of smoking—nicotine addiction; The health consequences of smoking: a report of the surgeon general. Cigarette smoking increases colorectal cancer risk. December 3, Office of Surgeon General of the United States. The effects of a smoking cessation intervention on Ann Intern Med.
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