EDITORIAL: Lengthening Life

Thursday’s annual abstinence event called the Great American Smokeout will focus intense attention on all the dangers of smoking, including second-hand smoke that’s also verified as a cancer-causing killer.
The first smokeout event 35 years ago grew into an American Cancer Society trademarked event, and it immediately attracted widespread interest because it was factually confrontational. The publicity with the observance laid on the line the almost endless medical liabilities created by smoking, and it spurred the smoke-free movement in communities, businesses and institutions, thousands now smoke free in all public places and many workplaces. Many Northeast Mississippi communities and workplaces have become smoke free, especially in interior spaces.
The concept is simple: Don’t smoke for one day, and let that become the first day of a smoke-free life.
The medical reasons are compelling:
* Smokers who quit can expect to live as many as 10 years longer than those who continue to smoke. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.
* Smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes contains 4,000 different chemicals, including many that cause cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.
* Second-hand smoke is a death cloud. It can cause the same cancers and other diseases as directly inhaled tobacco smoke. More than 500 Mississippians are projected to die this year from illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.
Overcoming nicotine addiction is difficult, as almost everyone who has ever tried will attest, but the rewards are immediately encouraging and the long-term benefits profound:
* Breaths smells better, stained teeth get whiter, bad-smelling clothes and hair go away, yellow fingers and fingernails disappear, food tastes better, and everyday activities cease being a breathless event and,
* 20 minutes after quitting heart rates and blood pressure drop.
Longer term benefits are life-changing:
* Two weeks to three months after quitting circulation improves and lung function increases.
* One to nine months after quitting coughing and shortness of breath decrease; tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs regain normal function.
* One year after quitting the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
* Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker five to 15 years after quitting.
* Ten years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a person who continues smoking. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.
The Great American Smokeout helped to set the stage for the cultural revolution, turning the public against unrestrained smoking in public venues and encouraging bans in private-sector workplaces.
Like a one-day reprieve leading to cessation, the decline of public smoking acceptability sprang from a single action when Berkeley, Calif., became the first community to limit smoking in restaurants and other public places in 1977.
In 1994, the state of Mississippi filed the first of 24 state lawsuits seeking to recuperate hundreds of millions of dollars from Big Tobacco companies for smokers’ Medicaid bills, and that led to exposure of the false science and outright lies that those firms had used for decades to promote smoking as an acceptable, harmless personal lifestyle enhancement.
Smoking of course remains a choice people can make, but it has been exposed as a deadly addiction.

NEMS Daily Journal