Cigarette smoking’s causal link to lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses is fairly undeniable at this point. In reaction, society is making things harder and harder for smokers with the intention of discouraging the habit—with some degree of success.
Although increased taxes on cigarettes, smoking bans in restaurants, campuses, and other public places, and similar actions are bad news for smokers, they’re great news for the rest of us.
Even with increasing restrictions on smoking in public, chances are most of us have been, and will be, exposed to tobacco smoke at some point. Unfortunately, this passive smoke (commonly known as secondhand smoke) carries all the health risks as smoking directly, although to lesser degrees. It’s critical to avoid cigarette smoke and other environmental toxins and pollutants as much as possible, but equally important to take steps to protect yourself from the inevitable exposure.
Smoking Kills … Even Those Without the Habit
Smoking is a deadly habit, plain and simple. Even though this is far from "new news," I think it could be beneficial for everyone to hear the cold, hard facts about smoking once again to hammer home the importance of avoiding this addiction and exposure to cigarette smoke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarettes claim 440,000 lives per year in the US—and that’s just accounting for the people who actively smoke! When you add in the costs of lives related to damage caused by secondhand smoke, that number rises to one-in-five deaths in this country.
When people think of the health effects of smoking, lung cancer often is the first risk that comes to mind—and with good reason. Lung cancer accounts for more deaths than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2006 (the most recent year for which statistics are currently available), the CDC reports that 106,374 men and 90,080 women were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 89,243 men and 69,356 women died from the disease. Even more troubling than these statistics though is that public health records show smoking is more devastating to the heart.
Coronary heart disease is not only the leading cause of death in the U.S., but also the leading cause of death caused by smoking. Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers and have more than twice the risk of stroke, according to the most recent American Heart Association report.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, and over 60 of them are known or suspected to cause cancer and free radical damage through oxidative stress on the blood vessels. Seeing how deadly cigarettes are to smokers, it stands to reason that even indirect exposure to cigarettes can result in terrible health problems.
Every year in the United States alone, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease and about 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers who live with smokers, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). To add even another reason to ALL avoid cigarette exposure, researchers are hypothesizing that thirdhand smoke can also cause health problems
According to ACS, thirdhand smoke refers to “the toxic particles that are left in the air after you can no longer see the smoke. Over time, they settle on surfaces and can be measured long after the person is done smoking.”
Although the cancer risk presented by these smoke particles is less than direct or indirect smoking, I’d say it’s safe to assume these particles are toxic and absorbable through the skin and mucous membranes of non-smokers, especially by sensitive populations like infants, the elderly, and irritate those with respiratory problems like asthma.
Smoking Carries Steep Health and Healthcare Costs
As if we needed any more reasons to avoid cigarettes, the cost of smoking in healthcare is simply astounding, although not surprising seeing that 20% of deaths in the US are smoking-related. The CDC estimates smoking contributes to $96 billion annually in direct medical costs and lost productivity costs associated with smoking were reported as $97 billion, for a total of an estimated $193 billion per year.
Once again, that’s just for active smokers. The healthcare costs associated with exposure to secondhand smoke average $10 billion annually, pushing the grand total annual smoking healthcare costs to just over a cool $200 billion. Just imagine what positive health education initiatives we could launch with that kind of money!
Protect Yourself from Cigarette Smoke With Antioxidants and Earthing
Like many things in like, the best advice to start is the simplest. Avoid smoking and being around cigarettes at all costs. Do not let people smoking in your home or car, and politely but firmly tell chain-smoking Cousin Gertrude to wash her hands and change her shirt before she cuddles your new grandchild.
Also be sure to take a high-quality multivitamin that contains antioxidants, and be sure to ground yourself as much as possible. In short, connecting with the healing energy of the Earth by walking barefoot or sleeping with a grounding pad system can reduce inflammation caused by cigarette exposure.
Although I doubt many of you smoke, if you do, why not give quitting a try today? If not for concern about your own health, quit for the health of your loved ones, friends, neighbors, and even those you pass on the street who otherwise would have to walk through a cloud of your smoke.
If you need help quitting or know someone who does who may be receptive to this information, check out these 15 quit smoking tips.