Brandywine Family Medicine

Smoking Tobacco

Published 06.11.2021

Smoking is bad. It increases your risk of every kind of cancer including, throat, esophageal, stomach, colon, cervical, and especially lung cancer. 80% of lung cancer deaths are related to smoking. If you smoke until 50 you have a 10% chance of getting lung cancer. If you smoke until 70 you have a 25% chance of getting lung cancer. Quitting really does make a difference and it is never too late to quit. Living with a smoker increases someone's risk of lung cancer by 30% and it doesn’t matter if the person they live with smokes outside or not. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is caused by smoking 85% of the time. Smokers have a 25% chance of getting moderate to severe COPD. This means you would be out of breath walking on level ground in a couple of minutes. This causes progressive decline in lung function leading to severe shortness of breath requiring oxygen and inhaled medications daily. Smoking a pack a day takes 10 years off your life. It ages you faster causing more skin wrinkling and hair loss. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death. Of those premature deaths about a 1/3 are from cancer, a 1/3 from heart disease, and a 1/3 from lung disease. If you are a diabetic and smoke you are dramatically increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you are between 55 and 80 and have smoked a pack a day for thirty years you should get a low dose CT scan of the lungs to screen for lung cancer every year. There is nothing good that comes from smoking.

Quitting smoking is really hard because nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known. Since the big tobacco settlement years ago, tobacco companies have increased the nicotine content of cigarettes by 20% making them more addictive than ever before. Vaping nicotine containing products has become very popular in recent years with teens and young adults. There are no long term studies looking at the medical consequences of vaping but we have known for years that taking fats and sugars like that are in these products and heating them to super high temperatures similar to what happens on the heated coil in vaping devices, causes carcinogens to form that can lead to cancer. We don’t know if vaping causes cancer or not because these products are new and studies haven’t been completed yet. These products are flavored like candy and advertised to youth, getting them addicted younger and younger.

There are several different options for quitting smoking. The hardest is just going cold turkey and quitting. This is only successful about 10% of the time. There are several different nicotine replacement products available over the counter including patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers. These give you about a 20% quit rate. Medication options include Zyban (bupropion) or Chantix (verenicline). Zyban gives you about a 30% quit rate, is inexpensive, and has few side effects. Chantix is quite expensive if your insurance doesn’t cover for it and it can have side effects of depression and vivid dreams, but it can give you a 40-50% quit rate. Anything you do to make more of a commitment to quitting smoking helps. Throwing out all smoking related stuff like ashtrays and lighters, detailing your car and getting rid of the smoke smell, putting up signs in the house that encourage you to stay smoke free, and giving your self a reward for being 30 days smoke free all increase your chances of quitting smoking. The Delaware Quitline has some great information and I encourage everyone to call them. You can quit smoking but first you have to decide you really want to quit. Try putting up a piece of paper on the fridge with columns of reasons to keep smoking and reasons to quit smoking and a list of rewards you can buy with the money you save. Sometimes doing this can help motivate you to quit. Quitting smoking is the goal but if you can just cut back from one to half a pack a day is better than nothing. You will feel better if you quit. Your breathing improves in a couple of weeks and food tastes better. You can smell again. You feel more in control of your life when you quit smoking.

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