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Cigarette smoking causes nearly a half million deaths in America every year, which is more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. And a decision to quit smoking could save your life.
The Doctors welcome Brian, a former smoker. He says he was smoking nearly a pack a day by the time he was 10 or 11 years old. He had a heart attack at the age of 35, followed by a bypass operation. He says his lungs were also affected and he was put on oxygen. He was placed on the transplant list for a new heart but was taken off of it when nicotine was found in his blood. He says that was the motivation he needed to quit smoking. He has since stopped smoking, was placed back on the transplant list and has received a new heart.
Dr. Travis Stork says Brian is living proof that there is hope after a cigarette addiction. Addiction to nicotine can be very hard to overcome and research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine In America more people are addicted to nicotine than any other drug.
In addition to being harmful to the lungs, cigarette smoking can cause cancer and damage in nearly every part of the body, as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Brian is now part of CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign which profiles real people, who live every day with the damage that smoking causes to someone's health.
"I smoked over 40 years and if I can quit, you can quit smoking. There really is life after cigarettes," Brian says.
The CDC campaign also urges non-smokers to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, which increases the chances of getting lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent and can cause strokes and heart disease. The Doctors explain that in children, secondhand smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, middle ear disease and more severe and frequent asthma attacks among those who already have asthma. They note that smoking not only affects the smoker, but also those around the smoker.
The Doctors recommend having a plan in place to quit smoking and suggest these tips for when you feel tempted to smoke:
- Take a walk
- Keep your mouth busy by chewing on something - cinnamon sticks, carrots, pickles, apples or celery could be good options
- Talk to your doctor about nicotine gum, the patch or medication, including non-nicotine medications which can help with cravings and may increase your chances of success
Brian says he found help with a smoking cessation class, explaining that he committed to every aspect of the program, including deep breathing exercises to deal with cravings and medication. "In the end, it gave me another chance to live," he adds.
Dr. Stork explains that once you quit smoking the body begins to repair itself.
The CDC offers smokers free resources and assistance to help with quitting. More information and resources can be found by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting cdc.gov/tips.