One of the most common New Year's resolutions can not only change, but ultimately save, lives. The good news is that many smokers decide the New Year is a great time to quit smoking. The bad news is that by March a significant number have given up on that goal.
Like all New Year's resolutions, quitting smoking seems like a great idea at first, but as the stress of daily life piles up alongside holiday bills and snow, it's easy to lose sight of the goal. When a quick cigarette offers immediate satisfaction, it can be hard to see how that short-term gain can cause such long-term pain. That's why it's important to realize just what that cigarette costs - above and beyond the $2,190 to buy a pack a day for a year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, and many of those chemicals cause cancer. Smokers know that smoking causes lung cancer but may not be aware that smoking is a leading cause of cancer of the throat, mouth, voice box, kidney, bladder, pancreas, cervix and stomach. Smoking also causes plaque buildup in arteries, which can trigger chest pain, heart attack or stroke. The National Cancer Institute says cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke cause more than 440,000 premature deaths every year; it is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in this country.
It's a sad fact that smokers die sooner and sicker than non-smokers, but it's not just themselves their habit harms. Secondhand smoke causes illness and disease in non-smokers. In 2006, the Surgeon General stated there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Platelets in the blood of people who breathe cigarette smoke get sticky and form clots, just as they do in smokers. This raises their risk of heart attack.
Babies and children are even more vulnerable. Secondhand smoke causes asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections in babies and children and has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that exposure to tobacco smoke during childhood can be associated with development of cancer during adulthood. Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to improve your health and the health of everyone around you.
Very few things in life come with a guarantee, but quitting smoking is one that does. When you stop smoking, you will feel better and have more money in your pocket. However, even armed with a long list of good reasons, quitting isn't easy and probably will require more than a couple tries. The most important thing to remember is not to give up, never quit quitting. It doesn't matter how long you've smoked or how many times you've tried to quit in the past, you can quit smoking.
More than 50 million Americans have already kicked the habit. With a wide variety of nicotine replacement products on the market and new and effective medications to help, there has never been a better time to quit. Ask your doctor for guidance. Friends, family and co-workers can be called upon for support and encouragement. Free, confidential telephone counseling is available at Michigan's Quit Line 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Callers who are pregnant will earn reward cards after every call. For more information, please contact me at the health department at 482-7382 ext. 122.
Editor's note: Gail Ploe is a prevention specialist at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock.