Good reasons to quit smoking
Tuesday, November 24 2009
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TOBACCO USE, namely cigarette smoking, is a major cause of preventable death in Trinidad and Tobago. Left unbridled, smoking could kill more than a billion people this century, according to the World Health Organisation.
Still, it may be harder than ever to quit: Three quarters of today’s smokers trying to shed the habit are heavily hooked on nicotine, up 32 percent from almost two decades ago, according to research presented at the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual meeting last October. So quitting, for most, is not merely a matter of willpower. Nonetheless, the reasons to do so keep amassing — and they’re not all about heart disease, lung cancer or respiratory problems.
Here’s a few downs ides you might not have considered:
1. It fogs the mind. Smoking may cloud the mind, according to accumulating research. A June study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking in middle age is linked to memory problems and to a slide in reasoning abilities, though these risks appeared lessened for those who’d long quit; this is important, the authors wrote, because other research has shown that people with mild cognitive impairment in mid life develop dementia at an accelerated rate.
Their report piggybacks on several focused on the older set: A 2007 analysis of 19 prior studies concluded that elderly smokers face a heightened risk of dementia and cognitive decline, compared with lifelong nonsmokers. And in 2004, researchers reported in Neurology that smoking appeared to hasten cognitive decline in dementia-free elderly smokers, bringing it on several times faster than in their nonsmoking peers.
2. It may bring on diabetes. As if we need any more risk factors for diabetes, an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year found that across 25 prior studies, current smokers have a 44 percent greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers do, and the risk was strongest for those with the heaviest habit, who clocked 20 or more cigarettes per day. In an accompanying editorial, researchers made a striking estimation: That some 12 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases nationwide might be attributable to smoking.
3. It invites infections. In October, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices made its first ever recommendation that all smokers ages 19 to 64 be added to a short list of candidates for the pneumococcal vaccine. That’s because there are very strong data showing that the risk of infection by pneumonia-causing bacteria is substantially greater for smokers than for nonsmokers, says Pekka Nuorti, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exactly why is unclear, though there’s evidence that smoking may damage the respiratory system’s protective mucous membranes, making it easier for infectious organisms to latch on and cause disease, says Nuorti. Other research suggests that smoking may interfere with immunity, compromising people’s ability to fight infections, he adds.
Heightened susceptibility to infections, it appears, isn’t limited just to those who do the smoking: A May 2008 study in Tobacco Control found that children exposed to secondhand smoke at home during early infancy (especially those born prematurely or with a low birth weight) are more prone to a throng of severe illnesses that may land them in the hospital at some point during childhood. The findings were based on an analysis of more than 7,000 Chinese children from 1997 to 2005.
4. It may stultify a sex life. If men want to hop aboard the Viagra bandwagon, mounting evidence suggests that puffing cigarettes might be just their ticket. Smokers are more apt to experience erectile dysfunction than nonsmokers are, and this risk climbs as the number of cigarettes smoked increases. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2007 tracked more than 7,500 Chinese men with low risk for artherosclerosis, a chief underlying cause of erectile dysfunction, and found that smoking could independently hike a man’s chance of wrangling with the sexual condition. Preventing smoking is an “important approach” for cutting the risk of ED, the researchers concluded.
5. It may lead to wrinkles ... everywhere. Not only does smoking contribute to premature facial wrinkles, but a 2007 study in the Archives of Dermatology found that it may also lead to wrinkling of skin that rarely sees the light of day — in areas such as the inner arm and perhaps the buttocks.
6. It may hasten menopause. Women who smoke face an increased risk of infertility, and they may experience natural menopause at a younger age than do nonsmokers, according to the 2004 and the 2001 Surgeon General’s Reports, respectively. Further evidence: A 2001 animal study in Nature Genetics found that chemicals in cigarette smoke can hurry menopause by killing off egg cells made by ovaries, thereby dwindling the egg cell reserve. Since the timing of menopause is dictated by the size of a woman’s egg cell reserve — which is stocked with about a million eggs at birth and vanishes by menopause — anything that speeds up its loss could logically lead to a much earlier onset of fertility troubles, notes Jonathan Tilly, one of the study’s authors and director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital.