Blog | Friday, December 2, 2011

41 diseases linked to smoking create a huge problem in the U.S.

I live on the West Coast and where is rare to see a smoker. Because it is not socially accepted, smokers are not out in the open. They lurk behind buildings to take a smoke break at work and I don't even own an ashtray for friends because none of my friends smoke. But San Francisco isn't the rest of America. In 2010 there were 45.5 million Americans who smoke, with men smoking more than women. Tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Each year approximately 433,000 people die of smoking-related illness.

Here are some more stats on American adult smokers. The highest prevalence is American Indians/Alaska Natives (31.4%) followed by whites (21%). Smoking incidence decreases with increasing education and improved economics. By region, the Midwest has the most smokers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia (22 to 27%). That is huge.

California and Utah have the lowest percentage of adult smokers at 9 to 12%.

During 2005-2010 the overall proportion of U.S. adult smokers declined, but not nearly as much as it should have. Also, the decline (about 3 million people) was not uniform across the population. The study of smokers was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and likely underestimates the number of current smokers. The fact that more than one in five Americans still smoke is a huge problem for our health care system. Here is a list of diseases that are associated with smoking:
--Lung cancer
--Cancer of the mouth
--Cancer of the throat
--Cancer of the larynx
--Cancer of the oesophagus
--Stomach cancer
--Kidney cancer
--Cancer of the bladder
--Cancer of the pancreas
--Liver cancer
--Cancer of the penis
--Cancer of the anus
--Cervical cancer
--Prostate cancer
--Heart attack
--Coronary heart disease
--Cardiovascular disease
--Congestive heart failure
--Abdominal aortic aneurysm
--Peripheral artery disease
--Ischaemic heart disease
--Chronic bronchitis
--Stomach ulcers
--Gum disease
--High blood pressure
--Crohn's disease
--Premature aging of the skin
--Loss of smell and taste
--Osteoporosis (women)
--Reduced fertility

I think most people know the risks of smoking. Nicotine smoke, like inhaled cocaine, moves into the bloodstream and up to the smoker's brain within 7 to 10 seconds. It is not a "bad habit," it is an addiction. But with more than 4,000 toxic chemicals in nicotine, it is far worse on the body than other addictions.

Stopping smoking is one of the most healthful things a person can do for themselves.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.