Smoking: Here are 10 reasons to quit

June 28, 2007

During the past several weeks, the Health and Wellness Newswire has featured articles about the benefits of quitting smoking. As Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine nears its mandatory tobacco-free compliance date of July 1, here's a final look at 10 reasons to quit for good:

1. Heart disease is far more common among smokers than nonsmokers and causes far more deaths than lung cancer. When a smoker quits, the risk of heart disease drops to half that of active smokers within a year. After five years, the risk is close to that of nonsmokers.

2. Lung cancer risk is greatly increased for smokers, often for many years after they quit smoking. For most smokers who quit, the risk of lung cancer drops close to that of nonsmokers after about 15 years, but research shows that former smokers are more vulnerable than others to the effects of secondhand smoke.

3. Emphysema is a chronic, progressive lung disorder common in persons who have smoked for many years. It's common for aging smokers with emphysema to need supplemental oxygen as the lungs become flaccid and unable to supply the body's oxygen needs. Emphysema has a direct and very negative effect on overall health and also on quality of life as patients find it increasingly difficult to work, be active or carry on daily living activities.

4. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that affects central vision, is twice as common in older smokers compared with nonsmokers. Smoking damages the macula, the part of the eye that discerns details. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, and there are few treatments. Quitting cuts the risk of developing AMD. One study found that 20 years after quitting, former smokers had no increased risk for AMD.

5. Secondhand smoke and the negative impact it has on fellow workers and family members is enough to prompt some smokers to quit. Infants and toddlers exposed to second-hand smoke have a higher risk of developing respiratory problems. One study found a direct association between environmental tobacco smoke and cognitive deficits in children. An estimated 17 percent of lung cancers occur in people who never smoked but who were subjected to second-hand smoke during childhood.

6. Smoking during pregnancy is a recognized risk factor for multiple problems related to both the pregnancy and the developing infant. A Journal of the American Medical Association study found a fourfold risk of damage to a baby's DNA when the mother smoked. Prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of childhood asthma by 15 percent. Smoking is blamed for 40 percent of low birth-weight babies, and research now shows that children who are exposed to cigarette smoke in utero have a greater likelihood of becoming addicted to smoking as teenagers.

7. Smoking packs a wallop on the bank account. According to Discovery Health, U.S. citizens spend nearly $50 million on cigarettes each year, money that could be invested or saved for a dream vacation.

8. Social barriers. As more people worry about the effects of second-hand smoke, smoking in other people's cars and houses has become increasingly unacceptable. Not only do most workplaces ban smoking but a growing number of cities, and even entire nations, have banned smoking in certain public places.

9. Longevity is compromised by smoking and much improved by quitting. A 30-year-old woman who smokes can take seven years off her life expectancy. A man of the same age will lose five and one-half years.

10. There's help. No one is suggesting that quitting is easy, but quitters should take advantage of the help that's out there. Nicotine patches and gum can help overcome the acute physical withdrawal. But for many smokers the cravings that can occur weeks and months later can be more difficult to deal with. Behavioral counseling, being prepared with a plan and the support of friends and family can help former smokers fight through these difficult phases.

Each year 46 percent of smokers try to quit. Some succeed, and most fail. But the important thing for smokers to understand is that it usually takes more than one attempt to successfully quit. Analyze what went well and what didn't and create a better plan for the next attempt. Then set a new quit date to work toward. Millions of smokers quit each year. Make this the year to quit for good.

For information, talk to a physician or pharmacist, or call the Medical Center's 24-hour CareLine at (800) 243-1455.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009