Smoking surprises

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

March 2009

No one bothers to deny any more that cigarettes are the major cause of lung cancer and chronic lung disease and most people are aware that smoking is related to heart disease as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spell out the gruesome economic statistics: every pack of cigarettes adds a stunning $7.18 to a person's lifetime healthcare expenses. Tobacco costs the nation more than 167 billion dollars a year in the cost of medical care and lost productivity.

The threat of heart disease or lung cancer doesn't deter millions of Americans from smoking. I have heard "You've got to die of something!" from more than one friend, relative or patient. They are correct, of course, but are blissfully ignorant of what life would be like if they avoided those two diseases but were tethered to a tank of oxygen for years.

Maybe the Surgeon General ought to consider a new tactic to help us quit the habit: point out that smoking causes premature wrinkles and more rapid aging of the skin.

If smokers don't care about their looks maybe the threat of brain rot will motivate them to quit. Smoking doubles the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Still not enough reasons to quit? Smoking doubles the risk of aneurysm, a weak spot in a blood vessel that eventually begins to bulge like a weak area of an inner tube. When an aneurysm bursts within the brain or the abdominal cavity, death is often quick.

Life on oxygen is dull but smokers might not be able to count on TV in their old age in order to relieve the boredom. Smoking increases the risk of cataracts. Puffers are 2 to 3 times as likely to suffer from AMD, Age-related Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors. Because smoking constricts the blood supply to the inner ear they might have to turn the sound way up, too.

Women smokers take an extra hit in the matter of tobacco-related diseases. They are more susceptible to lung cancer than male smokers and they are more at risk from bladder cancer than men smokers are.

Quitting smoking is tough. Not quitting is tougher.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.