It’s no secret that tobacco is a leading cause of cancer. The World Health Organization describes tobacco as the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and estimates that its use kills more than 8 million people worldwide every year from cancer and other diseases.
Here are some other sobering facts:
- Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the US, including 80% of all lung cancer.
- Smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined.
- Smoking shortens lifespan by 11-12 years.
Why is tobacco so dangerous?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals, of which at least 69 are known to cause cancer. That’s a lot of risk packed into each cigarette, pipe, cigar or hookah. And that’s why lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest cancers to treat.
Secondhand smoke is also a risk factor for cancer. Sometimes called passive smoking, secondhand smoke contains the same mix of harmful chemicals that smokers inhale.
Have you heard of third-hand smoke? That’s the residue from tobacco smoke that clings to clothing, skin and hair. It contains toxic chemicals that become more toxic over time as its chemical compounds change and is also a risk factor for cancer.
What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
Here’s the biggest benefit: quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease, including cancer, by about 90%. Obviously, the younger a person quits, the better. But quitting at any age can give back years of life.
Here are some benefits smokers experience right away when they quit:
- Money spent on tobacco is saved.
- Food tastes better.
- Sense of smell returns to normal.
- Breath, hair and clothes smell better.
- Teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- Less breathlessness.
Over time, quitting also helps to reduce wrinkles, gum disease and tooth loss.
The long-term benefits are clear: less chance of cancer or other diseases (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and stoke) and a longer life.
How can I live tobacco-free?
Every smoker knows how hard it is to quit. Nicotine is highly addictive, and stopping the use of tobacco often means suffering through withdrawal symptoms like cravings, irritability, headaches, and even anxiety.
Quitting takes commitment, but it can be done. Here are a few tips:
- Pick a Quit Day. Pick a day within the next month and then start preparing for it. Mark it on the calendar.
- Make a plan. There are lots of quitting methods available. Talk to your healthcare provider and learn everything you can. Not every method suits every person.
- Get support. Join a smoking cessation group, use self-help materials like books, or call on a counselor. Also, tell your family, friends and co-workers that you are quitting. Emotional support increases the chance of being successful.
- On your Quit Day…Do not smoke! Stay busy, drink lots of water, start using a nicotine replacement if that’s part of your plan, spend time with friends, and avoid smokers.
These are just a few ideas – there are more out there. Do your research and talk to your healthcare provider.
The bottom line on quitting smoking? You’ll significantly reduce your cancer risk and extend your lifespan.
Do everything you can to live tobacco-free!
Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre
46 Point Finger Road, Paget
(441) 236 – 1001