December 1, 2017


Cost of lighting up

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Every day, more than 3,200 people under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. And they do it without considering the cost of lighting up. First and foremost, there’s the negative impact smoking can have on your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. And for every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 more people live with a serious smoking-related illness, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. But what about the financial cost? According to the CDC, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28, which means a pack-a-day habit sets you back $188 per month or $2,292 per year. Smoking for 10 years comes with a price tag of $22,920.

Addicted to nicotine

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More than 36 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. More than 40 percent of those smokers will attempt to quit this year, but what is it about cigarettes that makes them so addictive? The nicotine in any tobacco product is readily absorbed into the blood when a person uses it. Upon entering the blood, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases a person’s blood pressure, breathing and heart rate. As with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine increases levels of the chemical messenger dopamine, which affects the parts of the brain that control reward and pleasure. Shortly after the smoker finishes a cigarette, their body begins to show signs of withdrawal, like tingling in the hands and feet and difficulty in concentrating, causing them to smoke again to overcome these symptoms.

Affects overall health

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Smoking tobacco can damage nearly every organ in the human body and have an impact on a person’s overall health. For example, did you know that smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant? It can also make it more difficult to deliver a healthy baby once she becomes pregnant. Smoke increases the risk of early delivery, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS or crib death. With men, smoking can affect their sperm, reducing their fertility, and it can increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriage. Smoking can lead to cancer almost anywhere in the body. It also increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors. If no one in this country smoked, one of every three cancer deaths would not occur. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. It also affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.

Quitting is hard

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Quitting smoking is difficult. Many people who stop often take up the habit again due to stress and weight gain. Nicotine-replacement therapies, or NRTs, help with nicotine withdrawal. UAMS’ Dr. Erna Boone, a certified tobacco treatment specialist, says over-the-counter medications such as nicotine gum and skin patches, or prescription methods such as inhalers and nasal sprays, can help reduce symptoms by slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in the body. Treatment may also include the use of prescription medications such as Zyban or Chantix. These drugs target nicotine receptors in the brain, easing withdrawal symptoms and blocking the effects of nicotine if people start smoking again. Behavioral treatments use a variety of methods to help people quit smoking, ranging from self-help materials to counseling. These treatments teach people to recognize high-risk situations and develop strategies to deal with them.

Avoiding triggers

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Most smokers are able to give up the habit with little or no assistance while others require several attempts to finally resist the urge to smoke. Unfortunately, there are many situations in a smoker’s daily life that may trigger their desire to smoke. These situations can intensify symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Some of the triggers can include being around other smokers, being in a car, drinking alcohol and feeling stressed. If you are trying to quit smoking, the best thing to do is to identify your triggers and try to avoid them if you can. In general, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal pass quickly. Most symptoms pass within a week or two. Once the symptoms of withdrawal stop, you may still experience long-term cravings for tobacco. Curbing these cravings will be important for long-term success. And be sure to reward yourself for stopping. For example, with the money you save by not buying cigarettes, go buy yourself something special.

Trusted by thousands of listeners every week, T. Glenn Pait, M.D., began offering expert advice as the host of UAMS’ “Here’s to Your Health” program in 1996. Dr. Pait began working at UAMS in 1994 and has been practicing medicine for over 20 years.