My One Pleasure in Life

I phoned my dad to tell him I had stopped smoking. 
He called me a quitter.
Steven Pearl

I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I don't ever plan to have one. Smoke and lungs are not a good combination.  Cigarettes are highly addictive (just look at people who stand outside in freezing weather to have a smoke) and incredibly expensive. Over a lifetime, a pack-a-day smoker will spend over $100,000 in cigarettes, and considerably more when including health and life insurance premiums and cleaning bills. Recently, some companies, especially hospitals, have refused to employ people who smoke, further limiting smokers' ability to get jobs or advance.

The American Heart Association states that cigarette smoking is the "single most alterable risk factor for heart disease, accounting for 400,000 deaths annually." One-half of smokers will be killed by their habit, and a person in his or her 20s will live one-quarter less than a non-smoker of the same age. From a societal standpoint, the medical costs related to cigarette smoking exceed $50 billion per year.

Despite the proven physical and economic impacts, 3,000 teenagers start smoking every day, resulting in over 1 million new smokers every year. A key determinant of whether young people smoke is whether their parents smoke. Dr. Stephen E. Gilman of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that children who were younger than 12 when their parents were active smokers were 3.6 times more likely to smoke as children of non-smokers.

I remember counseling a young Navy petty officer in one of my submarine divisions. He had significant financial issues, and I was helping him budget his money. I told him he could quit smoking and use those funds to pay down his debt. He said, "Mr. Rex, smoking is my one pleasure in life." What a sad commentary and indication of the addictive power of nicotine.

If you consider exercise as a magic food to prolong life, smoking is a destructive habit that destroys life. Here are the negative effects of cigarettes on your heart and blood vessels:

• Reduces good (HDL) cholesterol, while increasing bad (LDL) cholesterol and                          oxidizing the LDL into a more toxic form
• Increases heart rate and blood pressure
• Causes spasms of the heart arteries, and makes them thicker and stiffer
• Raises insulin resistance
• Increases fibrinogen, a protein that causes blood clots
• Impairs cells lining blood vessels

One pack per day smokers increase their risk of heart attack by six times for women and three times for men, while markedly increasing the chance of stroke. Smoking will cause you to age prematurely, and dramatically increase your risk of cancer and other diseases, including lung, bladder, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, larynx, mouth and cervical cancer, along with emphysema and peptic ulcer disease.

There is no "pleasure" in that. There are no upsides or benefits to smoking—it is an addictive, expensive, life-robbing habit. If you have never smoked, don't start. And, if you are a smoker, quit. It isn't easy (70 percent of smokers would like to quit, 30% try in a given year, and 2.5% succeed), but by either going "cold turkey" or using nicotine patches or gum, you can break the habit. You owe it to yourself, your family and society to quit.  You will be amazed at the benefits and improvement in your life.

Action Points
• Understand the cost of smoking, both financially and in terms of your health.
• If you are not a smoker, don't start.  If you are a smoker, quit.
• If you are a parent, quit, or you risk raising children who are also smokers.

A longer, healthier life with nicer teeth, fresher breath, and much more money!

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