Posts Tagged ‘Tobacco smoking’

Smoking is Really Hazardous to Your Health

January 20, 2014

By now everyone knows that smoking is not a healthy habit, to say the least. I am not sure, however, that many people, especially smokers, know just how deadly smoking really is. Most people associate smoking with lung cancer but how many know that lung cancer is one of the worst forms of cancer, with only a 15% survival rate after five years? How many people think about the connection between smoking and heart disease? These are only the most obvious health problems caused by smoking. There are a whole host of others, as related in this article from Yahoo News.

Fifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General‘s report in 1964 warned about the link between smoking and lung cancer, research continues to identify more diseases that are directly caused by smoking.

Now, liver and colorectal cancers have been added to the list of cancers for which there’s sufficient data to infer smoking is not merely linked to but actually can cause the diseases, according to the newest Surgeon General’s report released today (Jan 17).

Cigarette smoke contains thousands of compounds, including 69 known to be carcinogens, chemicals that are directly involved in causing cancer. Carcinogens can result in tumors by damaging the genome or disrupting the cell’s metabolic processes.

Smoking is responsible for more than 90 percent of lung cancers. But traces of tobacco carcinogens have been found in other organs as well. For example, pieces of DNA bound to carcinogens have been found in breast tissue and breast milk, according to the report authors, who reviewed new research over the recent years.

“These carcinogens are absorbed systemically. They don’t just stay in the lungs. They are carried through the blood to many organs,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco, who was not involved in compiling the report.

In colorectal cancer, tumors often originate in the glands and the cells that cover the inside of the bowel. Carcinogens in tobacco smoke can reach the large bowel through the blood supply and disrupt regular functioning of the cells. These cells then might form polyps, which can progress into malignant, or cancerous, tumors.

Reviewing large previous studies, the researchers found an increased risk of colon and rectal cancer, particularly after smoking for two or more decades. In some studies, smokers were up to twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer as nonsmokers.

The report authors also looked at other cancers such as prostate cancer and concluded that smoking is not a cause for this type of cancer, although it increases risks of dying for those diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Examining breast cancer, the researchers concluded the evidence suggests smoking can cause the disease.

“Even a finding that is ‘suggestive,’ is a pretty strong finding,” Glantz told LiveScience. “If I give a glass filled with clear liquid and say, this might give you breast cancer but I’m not absolutely positive, I don’t think you want to drink the liquid.”

Other new entries in the official list of smoking-caused diseases include Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, macular degeneration that can blind older people, and cleft palate birth defects.

“In addition to carcinogens in the cigarette smoke, there’s a lot of inflammatory agents,” Glantz said. Smoking causes these diseases partly “by triggering inflammatory processes and increasing the general inflammatory environment.”

Looking over the past 50 years of the war on smoking, the report authors warned that the disease risks from smoking by women have risen sharply and are now equal to those of men for lung cancer, and pulmonary and heart diseases.

Since the landmark 1964 report, nearly 21 million people have died prematurely because of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the report.

Heart and metabolic diseases attributed to smoking accounted for 40 percent of tobacco-related deaths, the report revealed.

“This is very important. When people think about smoking they usually just think cancer. Most people don’t really appreciate how big the risks of heart diseases are,” Glantz said.

I am glad I never started smoking, though I am not sure if I deserve any credit. Both my parents smoked and it may be that not smoking was my particular way of rebelling. In any case, the experience of growing up surrounded by cigarette smoke has given me such an aversion to the smell of smoke that I cannot stand to be in the same room as someone smoking. I guess that I am lucky not to be tempted into such an unhealthy and addictive habit.

 

 

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Smoker’s License

November 16, 2012

I do not smoke and I dislike the smell of tobacco smoke so much that I can’t stand to be in the same room as someone who is smoking. In fact, an ideal world to me would be one in which the tobacco plant didn’t exist at all. With that in mind, you might think that I would be for a proposal to require smokers to purchase licenses from the government in order to buy cigarettes. In fact, I am totally against it. First, here is the story I found on Drudge and read on CBS News.

A public health proposal suggests that tobacco smokers should be required to apply and pay for a “smoker’s license” in order to continue buying cigarettes.

In this week’s PLOS Medicine medical journal, two leading tobacco control advocates debate the merits of the smoker’s license. Simon Chapman, a professor at the University of Sydney, proposes that users would have to apply and pay for a mandatory license in the form of a smartcard that would be shown when buying cigarettes.

Dr. Chapman wrote that it could discourage young people from picking up the habit.

In a controversial move, the smartcard would allow the government to limit how many cigarettes a smoker could buy. Professor Chapman suggests 50 per day averaged over two weeks to accommodate heavy smokers. The anti-smoking activist told the Daily Mail that the sale of tobacco is currently subject to trivial controls compared to other dangerous products that threaten both public and personal safety.

 

Arguing against the smoker’s license in the journal is Jeff Collin, a professor at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Collin wrote that it would shift focus away from the real vector of the epidemic—the tobacco industry—and focusing on individuals would censure victims, increase stigmatization of smokers, and marginalize the poor.

Professor Collin believes that limits to personal freedom will doom such legislation.

“The authoritarian connotations of the smoker’s license would inevitably meet with broad opposition,” Collin told the Daily Mail. “In the United Kingdom, for example, successive governments have failed to introduce identity cards.”

Citing future scientific benefit, Prof. Chapman wrote that the information collected from smartcard applications could be used to formulate better smoking prevention strategies.

“Opponents of the idea would be quick to suggest that Orwellian social engineers would soon be calling for licenses to drink alcohol and to eat junk food or engage in any ‘risky’ activity,” Dr. Chapman told the Daily Mail. “This argument rests on poor public understanding of the magnitude of the risks of smoking relative to other cumulative everyday risks to health.”

Leaving aside the obvious objections of  personal choice and responsibility, I have to wonder if it has occurred to these activists that a policy like this would end up creating a black market in cigarettes, bought by smokers who didn’t want to pay for the license or who wanted to smoke more than their ration. As a matter of fact, there already is a black market transporting cigarettes from low taxed states to high taxed states. If we cannot prevent people from using drugs like marijuana or heroin which are completely illegal, what makes them think that this lisencing scheme will work any better?

$100 a Pack

April 24, 2012

I don’t smoke and I can’t stand the smell of tobacco smoke in any form, so I suppose I should be thrilled at this story  from NBC News that I found on Drudge.

New Zealand’s Health Ministry has reportedly considered boosting the price of a pack of cigarettes as high as $100 ($81 U.S.) in a bid to make the country smoke free by 2025.

An internal government working paper raised the possibility of upping the cost of a 20-cigarette pack by 30 to 60 percent and tacking on yearly increases of 30 percent, Sky News reported.

With cigarettes now priced at about $16 to $17, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the $100 suggestion seemed like “an awful lot” and could encourage a black market, Fairfax NZ News reported.

Anti-tobacco activist Ben Youdan said it would be more “realistic” to price smokes at “$30 to $40 a pack” over the course of 10 to 15 years as part of a comprehensive campaign to reduce the number of smokers in the country, now around 650,000, according to Fairfax NZ News.

The problem is that while such a policy would certainly reduce the number of smokers in New Zealand, it would also create a black market of untaxed cigarettes. I imagine that if the costs of trying to crack down on illicit cigarettes are considered the savings in health costs created by the reduction in the number of smokers wouldn’t be all that much.


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