By. Ken Johnson, CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System
This week, Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System (HRHS) is pleased to join with the American Cancer Society in observance of the Great American Smokeout, an annual event designed to help smokers kick a habit that has life-threatening consequences.
The idea for the Great American Smokeout was born in 1970 when a civic activist asked people to quit smoking for one day and donate the money they would have spent on tobacco to a scholarship fund in Randolph, Massachusetts. A 1976 anti-smoking effort in California resulted in one million residents of the Golden State signing a pledge to never smoke again.
In 1977, Berkley, California, became the first city in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants and public places. Today, in Kansas, most cities enforce a smoking ban of one form or another in restaurants and at public events.
Every day at HRHS we treat patients dealing with medical issues that tie directly to smoking.
The American Cancer Society reports that smoking causes 32 percent of all cancer deaths in the nation. Approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are traced to habitual smoking. Lung cancer rates for males are 23 times higher than nonsmokers. Female smokers experience lung cancer rates 13 times greater than nonsmokers.
There are many studies confirming the effects of smoking and those exposed to secondhand smoke, along with a lengthy list of services and organizations available, many without charge, that are able to help people quit smoking.
Research shows that the most successful smoking cessation efforts include support systems such as telephone hotlines, stop-smoking groups, online groups, counseling, nicotine replacement products and prescription medicine to lessen cravings. The most significant support group is family members and friends who offer encouragement.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that most smokers become addicted to nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco. More Americans are addicted to nicotine than any other drug. Research indicates that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol.
Also, the CDC reports that smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which may cause cancer.
Nonsmokers enjoy a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease which may narrow blood vessels outside the heart.
Those who quit smoking will see a reduced risk of heart disease within two years after they stop, along with reduced respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Women who stop smoking may see a reduced risk for infertility during childbearing years. Those who cease smoking during pregnancy reduce the risk for a low birth weight baby.
Smoking cessation also has economic benefits. In a recent interview, one former smoker reported that he now has nearly $2,500 each year in cash to spend for other family needs. Another person said his productivity improved significantly because he no longer took smoke breaks. Others report that food now tastes better and their physical appearance improved when discolored teeth that had turned yellow were white again.
Smoking has the effect of drying out contact lenses and they become cloudy, causing the wearers to rub their eyes. Eventually, contact removal and even replacement are necessary as a result of the irritation.
Nonsmokers report that they immediately notice their bodies, cars, clothes and even pets smell better once they have kicked the habit.
Nationally, our joint efforts have achieved positive results. In 1965, 42 percent of Americans were daily cigarette smokers, a statistic that has been reduced by more than one half to 17 percent in 2014. However, 40 million Americans are still smoking.
Twenty minutes after a smoker inhales his or her last cigarette, that person’s heart rate drops to a normal level.
While cigarette usage has declined, the number of pipe and cigar users is on the rise.
Quitting smoking for even one day may be the start of a healthier life while reducing the risk of cancer. A majority of smokers say it takes more than one try to get the job done, a story familiar for anyone trying to break a bad habit.
There is no downside to stopping smoking, and you are never too old or too young to break the habit. Why not start today on a smoke-free lifestyle that may result in a longer, happier and healthier life?