I know you’ve heard me talk a lot about the evils of smoking on my show, and I want to assure you that I’m not trying to nag. I’ve watched many of my patients struggle with smoking even when they know about the horrible health effects. Nicotine is one of the most addictive compounds we know about, and quitting cigarettes is extremely hard.
With that said, thousands of Americans kick the habit for good every year, often after several attempts. In honor of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, I wanted to go through a few recent medical findings that might help push you to kick the habit for good.
Secondhand smoke is toxic.
While cigarettes cause a wide variety of diseases in those who smoke them, those exposed to the smoke suffer, too. A recent study found that the air quality in a smoker’s home is worse than the air in the world’s most polluted cities. While the air in Beijing and Delhi are often in the news for endangering public health, they’ve got nothing on a room where cigarettes are being smoked. Those fumes can cause asthma in children and may lead to lung cancer down the road. New research is also finding it may cause obesity, which carries its own risks of diabetes and heart disease.
Cigarette smoke lingers long after the last cigarette.
Ever heard of thirdhand smoke? The smoke that leaves your mouth contains a variety of chemicals that stick to the fabrics and materials in your environment. Those chemicals get trapped and then released over time back into the air. That’s thirdhand smoke and it’s why rooms where people have been smoking have that smoker smell even after they leave. These chemicals can actually cause health problems by reducing air quality and may even lead to cancer. These chemicals might be partly responsible for the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. These chemicals stay in the air for hours after a cigarette is smoked, so having a cigarette before your kids get home isn’t stopping them from being harmed by your smoke.
Smoking is making your back pain worse.
You’ve heard that smoking causes cancer and lung disease and contributes to heart disease, but I bet you didn’t know it worsens back pain as well. A new study found that smokers are three times more likely to have new back pain turn into long-term back pain. This happens because smoking actually changes the chemistry of your brain. The part of your brain that responds to the reward of nicotine is the same one that handles certain types of pain. When you’re hooked on cigarettes, your brain doesn’t handle pain as well, which makes your pain less likely to go away.
Cigars and hookahs are just as bad.
Some people think they’re safe because they don’t do cigarettes. But smoking anything is bad for your lungs. In fact, tests of cigar smokers have found that their blood levels of toxic chemicals are higher than those found in smokers and their levels of cancer-causing agents are about the same. Others think they’re safe smoking hookahs because the water somehow “cleans” the smoke. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hookah smoke contains many of the same chemicals as cigarettes in high amounts, putting users at risk for the lung, mouth and bladder cancers seen in regular smokers. No form of smoking is safe or healthy.
Menthol cigarettes may be worse.
Many smokers think that menthols are safer and healthier than regular cigarettes, but that’s completely false. In fact, a recent study found that those who smoke menthols spent more time in the ER and in the hospital than regular smokers, and they also had more trouble breathing during exercise.
Ready to quit? Check out my quit page to get started.