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Take a grim statistic, such as a half million deaths a year are caused by cigarette smoking. Now add a new study on the effects of this highly addictive habit, and increase that number by an additional 60,000 unnecessary fatalities.
These are the latest findings from a study entitled “Smoking and Mortality – Beyond Established Causes,” appearing in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Prior to this research, smoking had been linked to 21 common diseases. Some of these illnesses are what tobacco users can read about on the warning labels adorning cigarette packaging.
Smoking Cigarettes is Linked to the Following Conditions:
- Lung cancer
- Throat cancer
- Heart disease
- Difficulties with pregnancy, miscarriages, birth defects, premature births
- Myeloid leukemia
- Aortic aneurysm
However, there is now evidence that smokers are twice as likely to die from diseases and infections that weren’t previously linked to tobacco addiction. In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Brian D. Carter, lead author of the study, said, “The smoking epidemic is still ongoing… It’s not a done story.”
The 11-year observational study, funded by the American Cancer Society, spanned from 2000 to 2011, and followed more than a million smokers. Researchers discovered that these populations were at double the risk of dying from kidney disease, infections or respiratory complications not formerly linked to tobacco use.
In addition, artery disease, a rare illness created by a lack of blood flow to the intestines, is six times more likely to affect smokers than non-smokers. Some of the other new illnesses this study links to cigarettes are:
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Hypertensive heart disease
According to Dr. Carter, the results of this study make biological sense because smoking is known to weaken the immune system. Smokers are therefore at a greater risk of contracting dangerous infections. This study also showed that these risks decreased for individuals that overcame their addiction to tobacco, and this only improved the longer they remained smoke-free.
How Many People Smoke Cigarettes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that some 42 million Americans are cigarette smokers. A greater number of people living below the poverty line, as well as those with less education, are more commonly addicted to tobacco. Regardless of demographics, smokers, on average, are three times more likely to die a decade before non-smokers.
For many people recovering from drugs and alcohol, cigarette smoking is a last addictive hold over. Instead of going for the bottle or popping a pill when a craving strikes, some sober individuals find relief and release in nicotine. After all, it does affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, sending out “feel good” chemicals.
The most important element in addiction recovery is to stay sober and get the disease in remission. Once a solid foundation for sober lifestyle is achieved, those recovering from substance abuse might want to address an addiction to smoking. While it’s yet another challenge, there is support for this as well, and living smoke-free will only improve the quality of life.