Today is World No Tobacco Day, and I know that if you are a smoker, you’re saying to yourself, “Why don’t they just leave me alone? I’m not hurting anyone.” The truth is, you are hurting everyone, not just yourself – and that’s what World No Tobacco Day is all about.
Over 600,000 people die every year from second-hand smoke, says World No Tobacco Day. These are people who never smoked but are surrounded by others who do. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20-30 percent.
“The good news is, if you quit smoking today, your lung function will improve and your cancer risk won’t get worse,” says Mark Dylewski, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group thoracic surgeon who specializes in the removal of lung cancer. “Your lung has the ability to recover and improve its function from years of tobacco use.”
Dr. Dylewski also says that smokers’ risk of lung cancer always remains 10- to 20-fold higher than before you began to smoke. “Your risk of lung cancer stays exactly the same as on the day you quit,” he said.
“As a smoker, you are looking at a long list of other deadly health problems in your future, not just lung cancer,” Dr. Dylewski said. Among them are an increased risk of heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema and stroke.
Smoking has also been linked to other not-so-widely publicized health issues – including gum disease, cataracts, bone thinning, hip fractures and peptic ulcers. Some studies indicate smoking may lead to macular degeneration, an eye disease that can cause blindness.
So what can you do about it? QUIT!
Helpguide.org is a good place to start. Since there is no one-size-fits-all formula for quitting smoking, they make the following recommendations on how to start:
- Quit smoking cold turkey.
- Systematically decrease the number of cigarettes you smoke.
- Reduce your intake of nicotine gradually over time.
- Use nicotine replacement therapy or non-nicotine medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Utilize nicotine support groups.
- Try hypnosis, acupuncture or counseling, which uses cognitive behavioral techniques.
If one of these methods doesn’t work for you, try another. The key is to keep trying. Remember, as Dr. Dylewski says, “If you quit smoking today, your lungs won’t get any worse.”
If you’re interested in attending a support group, Baptist Health offers a Quit Smoking Now program. The group meets Mondays in the Homestead Hospital auditorium. The program is offered in English (6-7 p.m.) and in Spanish (7-8 p.m.).For more information, call 786-596-3812 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever you do, keep trying – for yourself, for your family and for your friends. Quitting smoking saves lives.