A new year began this weekend, and that means millions of Americans are embarking on some big changes in their lives. Studying harder, eating less, exercising more, and quitting smoking are some of the resolutions I’ve heard people mention in the last couple of weeks.
Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution likely knows what it feels like when the gate opens on a new year. You dash ahead with all the strength and determination you can find, but after weeks or even just days your enthusiasm wanes more and more until you’ve slipped back into your old habits or some modified form of them. If quitting smoking isn’t the king of failed resolutions, it’s certainly among the royalty, notorious for being one of the most dreaded and shortest lived of commitments.
But why is quitting so difficult? If you’ve ever smoked a handrolled cigarette with natural handpicked and sundried tobacco (not that they are any good for you either), you know they’re almost nothing like smoking a Marlboro. That’s because big cigarette manufacturers manipulate their tobacco to keep smokers addicted. In recent years, when faced with an onslaught of anti-smoking campaigns and landmark lawsuits, tobacco companies increased nicotine levels to make their cigarettes even more addictive. They also add all sorts of chemicals to improve their smell and appearance and make the cigarettes burn evenly.
A new report on the effects of tobacco smoke by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin emphasizes that cigarette smoke contains more than SEVEN THOUSAND chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogenic and hundreds more toxic to the human body in different ways. The attack that takes place in the human body every time a smoker inhales this smoke is staggering.
Well known effects are cancer, emphysema and other forms of lung damage, heart and cardiovascular disease. But cigarette smoke also robs the body of vitamins, decreases the effectiveness of medicines, causes fertility problems, creates blood sugar problems, and promotes bone deterioration, tooth decay, and a whole spectrum of other diseases and disorders.
In fact, cigarette smoke has been linked to hormone dysregulation, allergies, respiratory illness, depressed immunity, sudden infant death syndrome, and so many other ailments that they fill Dr. Benjamin’s 700-page report.
While this information isn’t new, Dr. Benjamin’s report is the first in a series of reports published by the Surgeon General’s office since 1964 to assert that just ONE cigarette is sufficient to cause cancer, trigger a heart attack, and damage other vital organs. Moreover, the report concludes that even brief secondhand exposure is enough to trigger deadly cardiovascular disease and events.
Having read this data, it’s not surprising that nearly half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related illnesses. What is surprising is that despite all of the scientific evidence about smoking’s deadliness, 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke. But such is the grip that big tobacco companies have upon the population, both physically with highly addictive nicotine-adjusted cigarettes and psychologically with clever marketing and sales tactics.
If scientific and medical data were enough to make people quit smoking, there would be very few smokers left in the world after reports like Dr. Benjamin’s. But hopefully this newest warning that just one cigarette is enough to kill will discourage a new generation to avoid trying one for the first time.