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We all know smoking is hazardous to our health. Still, I hear comments like, “My friend smoked all his life and did not get cancer.”
Yes, everyone who smokes does not get cancer, but smoking causes so many other problems, too, and therefore, smoking always hurts.
A landmark study was published in the Jan. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. This study addresses the overall effect of smoking.
Using data from more than 200,000 Americans, researchers also found the death rate for current smokers is three times as high as those who never smoked, with most of the extra deaths caused by smoking-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases.
The study showed lifetime smokers live 10 years less than nonsmokers. Therefore, even if smokers do not get cancer, they may have other ailments from smoking that can kill a person earlier.
The probability of surviving from 25 to 79 years of age of life was twice as high in nonsmokers than current smokers.
There is good news, too.
Not surprisingly, the study showed that the earlier a person quit smoking, the greater the impact. People who quit between 25 and 34 years of age gained about 10 years of life compared to those who continued to smoke.
But there were benefits at many ages. People who quit between 35 and 44 gained about nine years, and those who stopped between 45 and 59 gained about six years of life expectancy. Those years gained are of good quality of life.
I strongly believe, even if you quit smoking at any phase of life, it helps. The new research showed that, in fact, women are no more protected from the consequences of smoking than men.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use accounts for nearly 400,000 deaths annually in the United States — more than HIV infection, drug or alcohol use, car accidents, suicides and murders combined. One in five deaths in the USA is due to smoking-related illness.
It also showed that differences between smokers and the population in general are becoming more and more stark. In the past 20 years, advances in medicine and public health have improved life expectancy for the general public, but smokers have not benefited in the same way.
Efforts to eliminate smoking in public places and place higher taxes on cigarettes have all helped cut the prevalence of smoking. We still need to do more.
In short, do not start smoking if you are not smoking. If you are smoking, quit it at any age of life — it helps. Yes, it is not easy to quit, but we all have to take tough measures in life.
Dr. Sunil Gandhi is a hematologist and oncologist. He is volunteer medical adviser of the Citrus Unit of American Cancer Society. Write to 521 N. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-746-0707.