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Suicide, in Slow-Motion

By James Barber M.D.
Cosmetic Surgery Expert
Updated: September 10, 2008
Doc, is smoking really as bad for me as everyone makes it out to be? The answer, of course, is no. It's much worse. Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable deaths in the United States, killing at least 440,000 Americans each year. A review of literature from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (most smokers would need three breaths to say that!) shows that each pack of cigarettes sold in the US costs the nation an estimated $7.18 in medical care and lost productivity due to the tremendous affects smoking has on health and disease. This calculates to an estimated economical cost of $3,391 per smoker per year.

The financial burden, however, is paled by the unrecoverable cost to human life. Among adults, the studies show that most deaths occur from lung cancer (124,813), ischemic heart disease (81,976), and chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (64,735). In numerical terms, smoking shortens the life of an adult male by 13.2 years and an adult female by 14.5 years. In addition, 1,007 infant deaths are directly attributed to smoking each year.

I routinely see patients who show the ravenous effects of smoking. Their skin is nowhere near the quality of the average non-smoker. It ages much faster, bringing wrinkles and that unsightly yellowish hue. These patients are also 12 times more likely to complications during surgery. Complications usually involve skin loss, slow healing, and more severe scarring, but more serious complications become more frequent as well.

Don't forget what you already know about smoking too. How it increases the risk of lung and throat cancer, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure, gum disease, and a coffin full of others.

It isn't hard to convince yourself or a smoker you know that it is very bad for them. Some may even admit that it will kill them as they puff away. The difficult part is getting them to quit. Here are some of the most effective ways I have seen in my years of practicing medicine.
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• Pick a date to stop and write it down. Post it where you will see it all the time.

• Record, verbally or in writing, what triggers you to smoke. Keep a record of when and why you smoke.

• Make a list of reasons for quitting (include people) and review it constantly.

• Actively seek out activities to replace smoking.

• Exercise, you will feel more relaxed.

• Focus on what you are gaining, not what you are missing.

• Don't carry cigarettes, a lighter, or matches.

• Drink plenty of fluids, but stay away from caffeine and alcohol, they are known triggers.

• Ask your doctor about nicotine patches and gums, and prescriptions.

• Never give up. 75% of those who quit will smoke again, and most smokers try to quit 3 times before achieving success.

Forever Facts:

• Pesticides and herbicides may be hurting your fruits and vegetables. University of California studies show that organic produce can have as many as 50% more anti-oxidants as produce grown commercially.

• Skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease by 35 to 50%, according to a Harvard study of 3,000 men and women.

Words of Wisdom:

-"Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price."

Joan Didion
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