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More nails in smoking's coffin.

The list of offenses pinned to cigarette smoking continues to grow. In the May 24/31 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, tobacco is linked to heart attacks in women under 50 and to delayed conception. In this issue of the journal, devoted primaricly to the hazards of smoking, about the only good news for smokers is that stopping has an a immediate, positive effect on blood flow to the brain.

Boston University researchers compared 555 women under 50 hospitalized with heart attacks with 1,864 women hospitalized for other reasons, and found that heart attack risk was related to the number of cigarettes smoked. Women who smoked one to 24 cigarettes a day were at 2.9 times the risk of nonsmokers, while women who smoked 25 or more were at 10 times the risk. Recent use of oral contraceptives "substantially augmented the increased risk for smokers," they report.

In Houston, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston studied 268 smokers, former smokers and lifelong nonsmokers, and showed that nonsmokers had the highest level of blood flow to the brain, followed by former smokers and then current smokers. In a close look at 11 people who were able to quit, they found that blood flow increased relative to the duration of abstention. The results, they report, suggest that people who have smoked for three to four decades "can benefit substantially by abstaining from cigarette smoking and that significant improvement in cerebral circulation occurs within a relatively short period."

Another report in the journal notes that, though the overall proportion of smokers in the United States has decreased, the numer of young women who smoke has increased alarmingly. And they may feel the effects sooner than middle or old age--a report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., indicates that these women are more likely to have problems conceiving a child. In a study of 678 pregnant women, they found that 38 percent of the nonsmokers had conceived in their first menstrual cycle without contraceptives, compared with 28 percent of smokers.

The Tobacco Institute, an industry-supported lobbying group based in Washington, D.C., had not formulated a reply by press time.

But to most researchers, the evidence is in, and has been for some time. William Foege, former head of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, has called cigarette smoking "the smallpox of the 1980s." Advises Cedric Garland of the University of California at San Diego, who recently completed a study on passive smoking (SN:5/18/85, p. 312), "Stop smoking. It's undoubtedly one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health."
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Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 1, 1985
Words:448
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