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Where there's smoke....


We in the health professions tire of the tobacco industry's sick response every time some public effort is made to limit the use of tobacco. Consider, for example, an R.J. Reynolds ad that appeared some time back in response to a particular research report on smoking and coronary heart disease. After acknowledging the statistical association between the two, the ad countered that "statistics cannot explain why smoking and heart disease are associated. Thus, scientists have developed a theory: that heart disease is caused by smoking. Then they perform various experiments to check this theory...but it is important to label their belief accurately. It is an opinion. A judgment. But not scientific fact...that is why the controversy over smoking and health remains an open one."

Balderdash! That so-called controversy ended decades ago, and the evidence continues to mount that smoking is deadly. There is no room for debate about the relationship of smoking and a host of deadly diseases, nor that the risk of dying from heart disease, and to a lesser extent from cancer, will decline dramatically if one quits smoking. The big question, however, is how to quit--and there is no easy answer to the question. There are, on the other hand, a lot of misconceptions about those who quit--or cannot quit--smoking. Let's look at some facts that have come to light in recent research:

* Those who try to quit on their own are no more (or less) successful than those who seek help from support groups or through professional counsel.

* Heavy smokers may have more difficulty kicking the habit than light smokers. However, a recent study at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington found that 49 in a group of 108 heavy smokers who were enrolled in a program of group therapy plus nicotine gum had become nonsmokers at the end of one year and that 39 of the 49 were still smoke-free three years later.

* Although some who have been off cigarettes for a long time can sneak a smoke now and then without going back on the habit, the risk is simply not worth it. Just remind yourself of what it took to get off the habit and the benefits of doing so.

* Of all the drugs that have been tried, only one--nicotine, in the form of nicotine chewing gum--has proved to be effective in kicking the smoking habit. And it has helped as many as half of those who have used it in conjunction with a quitting program.

* Willpower alone will not do the trick. Quitting is only the first step. Then comes close combat with withdrawal symptoms, sometimes radical changes in lifestyle, lots of planning, and continuous effort. American Psychologist describes kicking the smoking habit as "a dynamic process, not a discrete event."

So don't give up if you, a friend or a family member has tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking. The American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Seventh Day Adventist church are among those organizations offering group programs. You can usually find a local listing in your telephone directory for the first two, and a free call to 1-800-253-3000 will give you the location of the nearest SDA program.
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Title Annotation:health effects of smoking
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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