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Tobacco How to Quit

More than 55 million Americans have started smoking in the 30+ years since the first Surgeon General's Report. In the last 30 years, Americans alone have consumed over 17 trillion cigarettes. If laid end-to-end, that is enough cigarettes to circle the earth more than 36,000 times!

University of Michigan tobacco specialist and African American group facilitator at the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor, Alena Williams, LLMSW, talks about tobacco, its connection to cancer and influences in minority communities.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S. More than 400,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses. That is more deaths than from AIDS, alcohol, auto accidents, fires, cocaine, heroin, murders, and suicides combined!

Did you know that there are over 4,000 dangerous chemicals in cigarettes? Here is a selected list of some of the most hazardous ones:
  • Ammonia: found in floor cleaners
  • Arsenic: rat poison
  • Butane: lighter fluid
  • Hydrogen Cyanide: poison used in gas chambers
  • Formaldehyde: used to preserve body tissues
  • Methane: rocket fuel
  • Cadmium: found in batteries
  • Carbon Monoxide: car exhaust
  • Acetone: a poisonous solvent and paint stripper
  • Toluene: poisonous industrial solvent
  • Polonium-210: a highly radioactive element
  • Benzene: poisonous toxin
  • DDT: highly poisonous banned insecticide
  • Tar: burned plant resins

    And of course there is:

  • Nicotine: also an active ingredient in some bug sprays

Smoking is the cause of 80-90% of lung cancers and 82% of head and neck cancers. Among women, the leading cause of cancer deaths has changed from breast cancer to lung cancer. Some of the most common smoking-related diseases are:

  • Emphysema
  • Cancer (especially of the lungs, head, and neck)
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Stroke
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Pneumonia

Immediate Physical Effects from Smoking

In addition to the long-term health consequences such as heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer, there are also immediate physical effects that result from smoking.

  • Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to catch pneumonia, colds, bronchitis, and sinus infections; and, it is more difficult for smokers to recover from these illnesses.
  • Smokers experience a chronic shortness of breath, coughing, and poor circulation. Bad circulation causes numbness or tingling in your arms and legs and can lead to gangrene.
  • Years of tobacco use result in chronic "smoker's breath" and teeth and fingers become discolored.
  • A smoker's senses of taste and smell are impaired by smoking.
  • The odor of stale cigarette smoke follows smokers, permeating their cars, houses, and clothing.

Second Hand Smoke and the Health of Others

Each year, an estimated 3,000 non-smokers die from lung cancer. Sometimes, it is the husbands, wives, children, and other family members of a smoker that are killed by secondhand smoke. Children often develop pneumonia or bronchitis and have severe asthma when they are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Older teens are more likely to start smoking if they grow up around environmental tobacco smoke.

Smokeless Tobacco

About 3.5% of adults in the U.S. use smokeless tobacco. The rate is higher in men (7.0%) than women (0.3%).1 Rates also tend to be higher among young people.

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