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For better health, longer life, quit smoking

Smoking is dangerous, smoking is bad, and smoking is unhealthy. You have probably heard it your whole life — from the time you were a kid in school to every time you light one up on your smoke break; the looks, the sighs, the disbelief, you’re thinking this could never happen to me. Take a few minutes and review the facts, not the opinions or myths of smoking, but the stone cold hard facts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 20 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 regularly smoke cigarettes; that is an astonishing 43 million people nationwide that habitually smoke. I’m sure if you were tasked to name five people you know who smoke cigarettes you could rattle of five names within seconds. My point is every single person knows someone whose life is or will be drastically affected by smoking. And although I may be another echo in the canyon of “I’ve heard this before,” maybe it will have a lasting impression, or at least plant the seed of curiosity.

Everyone starts smoking for different reasons. Joe the Camel would want you to believe it’s “cool.” Maybe it was peer pressure, or your parents smoked, possibly a habit you picked up socially at work or in other settings. However it began, everyone has one thing in common: You started and now you can’t stop.

You tell yourself every Monday, “This is the week I’m going to quit.” For one reason or another, the addiction has a grasp on your life, and the craving to smoke is greater than you’d like to believe.

I’m here to warn you that over time the little side effects of smoking snowball into some major health hazards for your life. Smoking doesn’t just affect your lungs, it affects every major organ in your body, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, and there isn’t a single cell in your body that is negatively altered from smoking.

Let’s first look at the obvious, your lungs. When you inhale the tobacco smoke the little filter on the end of the cigarette does little to prevent the damage to the alveoli of your lungs. Think of the alveoli as tiny little air sacs that open and expand when you take a breath. They are responsible for transferring oxygen to your red blood cells that then circulate around your body, providing all your tissues the necessary oxygen you need to survive.

When those tiny air sacs are damaged you lose your ability to breathe normally and without distress and transfer oxygen to the red bloods cells. The hot smoke you inhale from your cigarette slowly over time destroys your alveoli, causing common respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic airway obstruction.

In the medical field they call this chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; for lack of a better term you are slowly destroying the most vital and important parts of your lungs. It is estimated that 90 percent of all deaths caused by COPD are related to smoking. The tar and carcinogens also found in cigarette smoke over time build up like a plaque along the walls of your lungs. They turn them dark and black, and they become heavy. These carcinogens are what commonly cause cancer.

When the smoke enters the alveoli, it is the n transferred into the blood stream the same way the oxygen is transferred into the blood stream, via red blood cells. From the lungs the first stop along the way through your vascularity is your heart.

Smoking causes different problems with the heart. It weakens the lining of the walls in your vascularity as well as narrows the arteries by clogging up along the artery walls. This puts you at an extremely high rate for a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack.

Outside of the heart your body is lined with miles upon miles of arteries and veins, and as those arteries and veins are clogged it puts you at an increased risk of peripheral vascular disease. This can cause problems from pain to death and loss of tissue. You may notice a loss of sensation in your fingers or toes, and gradually over time, it worsens.

Last , let’s touch on the numerous different cancers caused by smoking. If no one in America smoked, it is estimated by the CDC that 1 in 3 deaths related to cancer would not occur. Smoking as previously mentioned affects the entire body, meaning the carcinogens you inhale on every puff are changing the way your body works.

Over time the chronic smoker can expect to develop some form of cancer. The most common cancers associated with smoking are acute myeloid leukemia, bladder cancer, cervix cancer, esophagus cancer, kidney cancer, larynx (voice box) cancer, lung cancer, oral cavity (mouth) cancer, pancreatic cancer, pharynx (throat) cancer and stomach cancer . In any case, cancer is painful and agonizing .

Smoking increases your chances of death. Period. It would be a shame to look back on your life and think that your illness or disease could have been prevented or avoided by simply putting down the cigarettes.

Make an effort to quit. Get help if you need it. There are doctors and products on the market that target those individuals who are looking to make a stand.

Don’t let smoking control you anymore. Don’t let smoking take away your life. If you have any other questions or comments, or if you need help or direction in helping quit smoking, feel free to email me at bshea@bcnv.org.

Brian Shea is a Boulder City paramedic/firefighter. If you have further questions about this or any fire safety issue, contact the Boulder City Fire Department at 293-9228.

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