Smoking really does kill

Unfortunately, smokers are still in disbelief that that they are not immortal. I see it everyday, especially and increasingly amongst the less than 20 age range. A fresh face person will suddenly blot out their face with a cigarette. I have written about this subject before, especially in the context of the need for a ban on public smoking and by providing some statistics showing the predicted worrying burden on future health care.

Last week I was shocked to hear that one of the founders and producers of ‘Have I got news for you (UK BBC1 TV) died of passive smoking at the age of only 45. Statistics, facts and preventative approaches through numerous anti-smoking campaigns are continuing to fail.

Interesting, although commercial advertisements have now been banned for both smoking and alcohol, the use of these substances continue to be featured and glamorised in plays, movies, situation comedies and during chat show banter. For example American comedies often depict the smoking of cigars as a way of showing opulence or a decedent lifestyle. Clean and ethical living is positioned as boring and the domain of the weak. Could it be that the very same writers that depict such negativity themselves lack confidence and are insecure about their own addictions?

The statistics speak for themselves:

Non-lethal illness
Smokers face a higher risk than non-smokers for a wide variety of illnesses, many of which may be fatal (see “Deaths caused by smoking” below). However, many medical conditions associated with smoking, while they may not be fatal, may cause years of debilitating illness or other problems. These include:

Increased risk for smokers
Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (gum disease)
Muscle injuries
Angina (20 x risk) Neck pain
Back pain Nystagmus (abnormal eye movements)
Buerger’s Disease (severe circulatory disease)
Ocular Histoplasmosis (fungal eye infection)
Duodenal ulcer Osteoporosis (in both sexes)
Cataract (2 x risk) Osteoarthritis
Crohn’s Disease (chronic inflamed bowel)
Depression Psoriasis (2 x risk)
Diabetes (Type 2, non-insulin dependent)
Skin wrinkling (2 x risk)
Hearing loss Stomach ulcer
Influenza Rheumatoid arthritis (for heavy smokers)
Impotence (2 x risk) Tendon injuries
Optic Neuropathy (loss of vision, 16 x risk)
Tobacco Amblyopia (loss of vision)
Ligament injuries Tooth loss
Macular degeneration (eyes, 2 x risk)

Symptoms worse in smokers
Asthma Graves’ disease (over-active thyroid gland)
Chronic rhinitis (chronic inflammation of the nose)
Multiple Sclerosis
Diabetic retinopathy (eyes) Optic Neuritis (eyes)
Disease more severe or persistent in smokers
Common cold Pneumonia
Crohn’s Disease (chronic inflamed bowel)

Deaths caused by smoking
One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely as a result of smoking – half of these in middle age. The most recent estimates show that around 114,000 people in the UK are killed by smoking every year, accounting for one fifth of all UK deaths. Most die from one of the three main diseases associated with cigarette smoking: lung cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease (bronchitis and emphysema) and coronary heart disease.

Maybe in a world of reality TV we need programmes to cover the life of a cancer victim. It certainly won’t be glamorous or form part of one’s drone like ‘entertain me’ attitude. However, it will publicise the seriousness of the issue.

Many countries have been serious enough to ban smoking in public places in a number of Capital cities. In the UK we need a stronger commitment instead of going for pleasing voters through fudge tactics.

Categories: 2005

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