"Sometimes I just sit in front of a mirror and watch myself inhaling that poison gas. If I was in a concentration camp and someone tried to make me do that, I'd want to kill them."
Everyone knows that smoking is bad for one's health. The intention of this post is not to get on my podium and rant about the contentious issues that have long been smoldering between smokers and non-smokers, and I apologize in advance for any unintentional conflict that may ensue. Instead, I merely aim to present some basic facts about smoking in order to help those wishing to make informed decisions about protecting their health from unsafe exposure.
Is smoking really as dangerous as they say?
A preliminary study in 1950 by epidemiologists Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill showed a strong and real association between smoking and lung cancer. The study also indicates that the more one smokes, the higher the risk of developing carcinoma of the lung. Further, the act of smoking appears to cause the same amount of harm whether the smoke is being inhaled or not!
Above the age of 45, the risk of developing [lung cancer] increases in simple proportion with the amount smoked,
and that it may be approximately 50 times as great among those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day as among non-smokers.
~ Doll & Hill, 1950, p747
In 1951, the British doctors study began, which charted the smoking habits and health conditions of about 40,000 physicians over a period of about 50 years. The first report appeared in 1954, which confirmed an increase in mortality with the amount smoked, with a significantly increased likelihood of lung cancer death amongst those who smoked 25 or more cigarettes a day. The report also proved that there was an increased risk of death from coronary thrombosis as the amount of cigarettes smoked increased.
The results of many decades’ follow-up were published in a final paper in 2004, which confirmed that the hazards of long term smoking had previously been significantly underestimated. About a half of the people who continue to smoke may ultimately die from their addiction. Typically, cigarette smokers shorten their lives by about 10 years. The risks continue to be high with low tar cigarettes.
On average, cigarette smokers die about 10 years younger
The risk of being killed by tobacco is doubled with persistent smoking
Other cancers that are linked to smoking are mouth, larynx, oesophagus, kidney, pancreas, uterus and bladder. Studies also suggest that smoking causes heart disease as well as numerous other diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that in 2025 to 2030 there will be 7 million tobacco deaths. Half are likely to die in middle age, between 35 and 69 years old.
Secondhand smoke (also known as passive smoking) can also have serious consequences on the health of children and adults who do not smoke, as it contains many of the same chemicals as the smoke that is breathed in by smokers. Secondhand smoke involves the inhalation of the smoke released either directly from a burning cigarette or from the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It holds a poisonous cocktail of at least 4,000 chemicals (e.g., arsenic used in pesticides, formaldehyde used to embalm dead bodies, and hydrogen cyanide used in chemical weapons), many of which cause a variety of major medical disorders. In fact, because it is created through different temperatures and conditions, the smoke that comes off a cigarette between puffs may even contain more toxins than directly inhaled smoke.
Experts agree that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief contact can increase the risk of heart attack and lung cancer. According the the U.S. Surgeon General, a nonsmoker’s risk of getting heart disease is likely to be increased by 25 to 30 percent by secondhand smoke, and the risk of developing lung cancer in nonsmokers is increased by 20 to 30 percent. Endeavoring to smoke in a separate area from family or ventilating the home are not successful methods at removing these dangers. The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones to is keep your environment smoke-free.
Exposure to secondhand smoke at home or at work increases a nonsmoker’s risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent
and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent
~ U.S. Surgeon General’s Report 2006
No if’s, ands, or butts - It’s never too late to burn that habit!
Good news! The follow-up 2004 Britsh doctors study showed that there is decreased risk of dying prematurely when cigarette smoking is stopped… And the most benefit can be gained by stopping sooner rather than later. If you need help in quitting, you may wish to visit your general physician for appropriate advice and resources or you can refer to some of the links below.
Cessation at age 60, 50, 40, or 30 years gained,
respectively, about 3, 6, 9, or 10 years of life expectancy.
~ Doll et. al., 2004, p1
Doll, R., and Hill, A. 1950. Smoking and carcinoma of the lung: Preliminary report. BMJ 1950;739-748:4682
Doll, R., and Hill, A. 1954. The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits: A preliminary report. BMJ 1954, 1451-1455
Doll, R., Peto, R., Boreham, J., Sutherland, I. 2004. Mortality in relation to Smoking: 50 years’ observation on male British doctors. BMJ 2004;328:1519
The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2006.