Don't Let Your Health Go Up in Smoke

The only difference between tobacco and other abused drugs is it is legal and socially acceptable.

According to Raj, the only difference between tobacco and other drugs is it is legal and socially acceptable.

President Barack Obama’s doctor confirmed last month that the president quit smoking. According to his physician, it took him five years to finally kick the habit. Like Obama, millions of Americans find the fight to quit smoking difficult.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. The Great American Smokeout is Nov. 17. Rishi Raj, M.D., assistant professor of the Department of Internal Medicine, said this is an opportunity for Americans to stop smoking.

Kick the Cigs

"Quitting smoking is difficult because nicotine is a very powerful drug and produces physical and psychological addiction,” Raj said. “The only difference between nicotine and other drugs of abuse is that it is legal and considered socially acceptable."

With nearly 440,000 deaths each year in the U.S. linked to tobacco, or one in five of all deaths in U.S., Raj said smokers should know about the harmful effects.

Those effects include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which include chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • Lung cancer mainly, but also cancer of mouth, head and neck, stomach, bladder and kidneys
  • Increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, arterial blockage and aortic aneurysms
  • Duodenal and gastric ulcers
  • Increased risk of infertility, spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy and premature menopause
  • Increases risk of developing diabetes and osteoporosis

Get a Breath of Fresh Air

Overall, people who smoke die much earlier than those who do not.

"Quitting is never easy,” Raj said. “If you smoke, start by deciding to quit. Nothing will work without a firm decision to quit."

Raj said there are many options to help quit smoking.

  • Counseling: in person, group or telephone
  • Nicotine supplementation such as gums, lozenges, patches or e-cigarettes
  • Medications such as Varenicline, bupropion and others

"Many times a combination of these approaches best help," Raj said. "Work with your physician to see what best for you. The Great American Smokeout is a great time to give up the habit that can kill you."

The 36th Annual Great American Smokeout is hosted by the American Cancer Society. Visit their website for a variety of resources to fight back against tobacco.

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