The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated May 31 as No Tobacco Day. It is no secret that smoking and other tobacco use are hazardous to your health, but as with any addiction, it can be difficult to break the habit. In 2015, approximately 15% (36.5million) American adults were current cigarette smokers. The aim of this day is to serve as a reminder and education on the exact impact that using tobacco products can have on you and perhaps act as inspiration to finally take the steps to quitting.
About 6 million people die from tobacco use worldwide each year. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of those deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. As a cause of cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease, among other health issues, it is actually the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.
- Heart: Chemicals in tobacco have a negative effect on blood cells and heart function, which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
- Lungs: Each cigarette smoked damages lungs and can lead to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and tuberculosis.
- Immune System: Smoking compromises the immune system, increasing chance of respiratory infections, and impedes the body’s ability to protect itself from infection and disease. It has been found to double the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and is linked to type 2 diabetes (adult-onset).
- Eyes: Smoking can affect vision, increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage – and even lead to blindness.
- Appearance: Plus, it makes you smell and look bad, as well as affecting your taste buds and sense of smell. Smoking ages skin faster and is second only to sun exposure for causing wrinkles.
There is no such thing as a safe or “light” cigarette. All cigarettes and tobacco pose health risks. The long-lasting chemical changes to the brain from smoking are similar to what happens with drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Other tobacco use including pipe, cigars and chewing also have toxic chemicals and are detrimental to your health.
Making a Change
The good news is that it is never too late to make a change and the damage incurred can possibly be reversed. If someone quits around the age of 30, the chances of dying from smoking-related causes decreases by 90%. If someone quits around the age of 50, the risk is reduced by 50%. Some changes can take effect immediately upon quitting, such as the normalizing of heart rate and blood pressure. Shortly thereafter, the level of carbon monoxide begins to decline. Eventually, circulation improves, the amount of work the heart is doing decreases and taste and smell begin to return to normal. Over the following years, risks of diseases and infertility, as well as impotence, decrease and medications may be more effective. Quitting smoking and tobacco use is not only healthy for your mind and body, but also your wallet and social life.
There’s no time to waste and no time like the present. Make today the first day of your smoke-free life.