The Latest Studies on Smoking ** What They Mean ** How to Quit

IMG_1252Five decades after the U.S. Surgeon General first warned of the hazards of smoking, researchers reported fresh evidence on Wednesday of tobacco’s devastating toll on the health  of the U.S. population — and of the benefits of quitting. This, from The Wall Street Journal, was one of the articles that was reporting new studies on the hazards of smoking, its devastating effects on the smoker and anyone around them and how quitting at any time is a good thing to do. So you might ask, why dont people quit? The dirty little secret that almost no one talks about is that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. The major tobacco companies know once they get someone to start smoking for most its virtually impossible for them to stop smoking. Cigarettes are the only product sold in the U.S. that when used as directed kills you. I understand the argument from people who feel government shouldnt have the right to interfere with what people want to buy. But I dont buy it.

A little history here is very interesting. If anyone has ever heard of the tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who was the richest girl in the world when her father died; and when she died in the 1990’s she died one of the wealthiest women in the world. Doris was the tabloid fodder of the 1910s, pretty much until she died. Her father, Buch Duke built an empire on the sales of cigarettes. His fortune and power was so strong and deep that his company had to be broken up. The still left Duke the richest man in America. While his fortune was growing daily from the sales of tobacco he urged young Doris not to smoke. Buck Duke knew in 1913 that smoking cigarettes led directly to lung cancer and other serious health troubles. In fact, before he died he diversified his holdings to include Duke Power and other large entities because he thought surely the American public knowing the harmful effects of smoking would soon stop and he wanted to make sure Doris was provided for for her whole life.

Fast forward 100 years and the big tobacco companies still deny the claim that cigarette smoking can be harmful to your health. This disgusting attitude of profit being more important than human lives is another topic. There has been some significant progress made; tday 44 million Americans smoke, thats 19% of the population. That figure is down from 42% in 1965. Todays studies show smoking will take 10 – 12 years off an average persons life span; they show if you quit before 40 you are much better off that quitting later. But the studies say no matter how old you are, quitting is good for your health. Why arent more people quitting? Because they can’t. They are physically addicted to a substance that has such a strong hold over them that 90% of people trying to quit fail. Many good things have been done, especially here in NYC. For a decade now no one can smoke in any bar or restaurant anywhere in the City. There is no smoking allowed in almost every building in NYC. All of this is good for the non smoker so they arent subjected to second hand smoke. Its also good for the smoker who has to go out of their way to smoke, which in turn makes it possibly less likely they will smoke as much. Also, Mayor Bloomberg gave away for free millions of smoking cessation programs that helped millions of NYers to stop smoking.

My biggest worry moving forward is stopping young people from starting smoking. Because little do they know at age 14 they are starting something that will be virtually impossible for them to give up. So, yes I agree you can not ban the sale of cigarettes; I recommend removing all labeling from boxes or cartons. They have talked about showing gruesome pictures of dying smokers on the packs, I think blank white packs would be more effective because they have no brand. Everything possible should be done to keep young people from starting the habit.

For adults I would advise free smoking cessation programs for anyone that wants them; I would add free counseling with that to properly use the cessation programs or tools. Where does the money come from. It comes from cost savings in the future. Just like with all healthcare anything ‘preventative’ should be free. Because the cost to prevent a disease is much much lower than the cost to pay for the disease once it hits.

A tip for people that want to quit: When you smoke you think you are enjoying it, but you are not. Your body is addicted to nicotine, when nicotine levels get lower you start to crave a smoke, when you do smoke you feel better because you are bringing the nicotine levels back up; in other words feeding the habit. It takes about 3 or 4 days to get the nicotine out of your system for good. Then you face the equally large challenge of psychological addiction.