Warning! Potential Health Risks of Misusing Stop-Smoking Aids
Several products containing nicotine are available today to help you stop smoking, including nicotine gum, the nicotine patch, and the nicotine inhaler. Both the patch and the gum are available over-the-counter, while the inhaler requires a doctor’s prescrip- tion. All three methods put nicotine into your system to help you curb your craving for tobacco and, when used according to directions, can help you kick your nicotine habit. However, if you exceed recommended dosages, continue to smoke while using these methods, or use more than one method at a time, you can overdose on nicotine. Too much nicotine in your bloodstream can overstimulate your heart and pose life-threatening risks to your health—high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. If you are considering using a stop-smoking aid that contains nicotine, talk to your doctor so you can learn more about these products and how to properly use them and make an informed decision. If you are already using one of these treatments, carefully follow the directions and note the warn- ings on the packaging.
The Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke is the smoke given off by a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe mixed with the smoke exhaled by the person smoking. This smoke contains the same 200 poisonous and 40 cancer-causing chemicals contained in cigarettes. Because secondhand smoke is distributed throughout the air inhaled by every- one—smokers and nonsmokers alike—present in an enclosed space, exposure to it is called passive or involuntary smoking. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classiﬁed secondhand smoke as a group A carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) and estimates that it causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers every year.
Secondhand smoke is an especially dangerous health threat to children. A child’s developing lungs are highly susceptible to irritants, producing a cough, wheezing, and excess mucus. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk for pneumonia; bronchitis; accumulation of ﬂuid in the ear; and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Children who have asthma (see page 245) and are exposed to secondhand smoke experience more severe symptoms and have asthma attacks more often than those who live in a smoke-free home. Passive smoking is thought to cause the development of asthma in thousands of children each year.
If you smoke, don’t smoke in your home, in your car with the windows closed, or around children. If the weather is too bad to smoke outside, smoke in a room with the windows open enough to provide cross-ventilation. If you are a non- smoker, don’t allow anyone to smoke in your house or car, especially around children. Find out about your employer’s smoking policy so you can protect yourself from secondhand smoke at work. In a restaurant, ask to sit in the non- smoking section, as far away from the smoking area as possible. If your com- munity does not have a smoking control ordinance, become active and urge your local government ofﬁcials to enact one.
Cigars Pose Health Risks, Too
Cigar sales have soared in recent years as cigar smoking has become more socially acceptable. A blitz of cigar advertising in magazines and prominent cigar placement in movies and music videos has made cigar smoking fashion- able, even glamorous. Men who smoke cigars may believe that they are less harmful to their health than cigarettes, but this idea is false. Cigar smoking has been linked to the development of cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus (the muscular passage that connects the mouth and the stomach), and lungs. Men who smoke cigars regularly, especially those who smoke several cigars a day, raise their risk of heart disease and lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis (see page 246) and emphysema (see page 247). Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks a day combined with cigar smoking seems to raise the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx, and throat exponentially. The harmful effects of secondhand smoke (see page 31) from a cigarette also apply to smoke given off by cigars.
While very occasional cigar smoking—for example, one cigar per month— may pose only a minimal health risk, a growing number of men smoke cigars on a far more regular basis, some even daily. Cigars are not an acceptable alterna- tive to cigarettes when it comes to your health or the health of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke from your cigar. It is best for your health to abstain from cigar smoking altogether.