By Elly Riley, DO
Do you smoke or use smokeless tobacco? Do you know someone that does? The Centers for Disease Control report that tobacco-use rates have dropped significantly over the past fifty years; today, only about twenty percent of adults in the United States smoke. Despite this, tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death. That means that just by quitting smoking, you can decrease your risk of death.
Smoking Contributes to Many Kinds of Cancer
Smoking can damage every part of your body. Nearly everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer. But many people don’t know that tobacco directly contributes to many other cancers, such as colon cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, head and neck cancers, and cervical cancer in women. Smoking also greatly increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and hip fracture. Smoking can make it harder for women to get pregnant.
Benefits of Quitting
Within hours of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate return to near normal levels. Within a day, harmful levels of carbon monoxide in your body decrease and oxygen levels increase. Forty-eight hours after you quit, smell and taste are enhanced, since smoking deadens these senses. Within weeks, your circulation and lung function improves, al-lowing you to do activities without getting winded and tiring easily. After a year without smoking, your risk for heart disease is lowered by 50% compared to when you were still smoking. Ten years after quitting, your lung cancer risk is cut in half compared to that of a smoker.
Our Goal: To Prevent Disease and Promote Health!
If you could go back in time and tell your teenage or young adult self not to smoke, would you? Today’s youth are exposed to tobacco at a young age from many sources: media, advertising, friends, family members, and their peers. Every fall, our resident and attending physicians travel to local elementary schools to engage 4th and 5th grade students in a fun, interactive, program called Tar Wars, sponsored by the Tennessee American Academy of Family Physicians. The goal of the program is to educate students about the dangers of tobacco, and try to promote the benefits of a tobacco-free life. A follow-up poster contest is conducted at the school and state level to reinforce the Tar Wars message. The key to health is prevention, and at UT Family Medicine, our goal is to prevent disease and promote health!
Tips to Quit Smoking:
Quitting tobacco is hard, but you can do it! Here are some tips to help you or a loved one quit smoking:
– Set a quit date. Write it on your calendar, put a reminder in your phone. Tell your friends and family your plan to quit smoking for your health.
– Identify times during the day when you “always” use tobacco. For most people, using tobacco becomes part of their daily routine. You must change your routine and find something else to do instead of using tobacco at your usual times.
– Have a plan for when a craving strikes. Call a friend, take a walk, clean a room in your house, or eat a healthy snack. Cravings typically only last a few minutes, and you will need a distraction until it passes.
– When the day comes, throw away any tobacco you have left lying around. Don’t buy anymore. Ask friends and family not to use tobacco around you, and tell them not to let you “bum” a cigarette from them.
– For women, don’t quit using tobacco during your menstrual cycle.
– Talk to your doctor about prescription and over the counter medications that may help you quit.
– If you relapse, try again!
The University of Tennessee
Family Medicine Center
294 Summar Drive, Jackson, TN 38301