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What is the risk of smoking?
Most patients who smoke will develop damage to different body organs.
Probably the most frequent damage is to the lungs, in the form of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), bronchitis and emphysema. This damage results in cough, production of sputum, respiratory infections, reduction of exercise capability and eventually, disability and death. A recent population study has shown that at least 30% of smokers sustain such damage to the lung.
Damage to the lung is demonstrable through inexpensive and non-invasive pulmonary function testing (PFT). Showing the patient the amount of damage already done to his lung as expressed in relative lung age can help to convince him that he needs to quit.
Smoking causes lung cancer as well as cancer of the mouth and tongue, throat, larynx, esophagus and trachea.
These cancers take many years to develop, and are rare under the age of forty.
A middle aged patient who has been a long term smoker has a risk of 1-2% per decade of having a lung cancer. As he gets older, the risk/decade increases to 2-3% per decade. This adds up to a risk of approximately 10% for long term cigarette smokers during a lifetime.
If a person has had and been cured of a lung cancer, the risk of his developing a second cigarette-related cancer is as high as 25% in the next decade!
A person who has had a lung cancer also has an increased risk of developing a second cancer of the mouth, tongue, pharynx, larynx and esophagus. This combined risk is approximately 5% in a decade.
Smokers also have a much higher risk of cardiovascular illness than non- smokers, including
peripheral vascular disease and
In sum total, cigarette smoking results in the premature death of at least 430,000 Americans each year, with an average of 10 years of productive life lost per person.
Many millions die worldwide.
Cigarette smoking has been described as "the most important health risk in this country." Women who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmoking women and also increase the risk of suffering a stroke.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases the chances that a woman will develop lung cancer. Lung cancer has increased 500% in women in the last 20 years. More women die of lung cancer than breast cancer. “Second hand” smoke also causes numerous health problems in family, friends and co-workers.
There is simply no safe way to smoke. Though low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes may reduce the lung cancer risk, they do not reduce the chance of heart disease or other smoking-related diseases