Occupational Health Services (OHS) recently took part in the 41st Great American Smokeout, an event that highlights the dangers of smoking and encourages smokers to make a plan to quit.
Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of chronic disease and death. There are an estimated 40 million adult cigarette smokers in the United States, and over 80% of them began smoking before the age of 18. Most continue to smoke for an average of 20 years. Smoking contributes to and exacerbates conditions including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis. Respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also frequent consequences of smoking. Ninety percent of all COPD deaths are associated with tobacco smoking.
According to the Surgeon General’s Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all persons exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk for tobacco-related disease and disability. Secondhand smoke can cause illness and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke, and smoking results in over $130 billion worth of health care expenditures as well as more than 440,000 premature deaths per year.
The science behind smoking is well understood. Once inhaled, tobacco smoke is absorbed in the brain, where it triggers the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters responsible for pleasure, arousal, and relief of anxiety and depression. Over a short period of time, nicotine exposure rapidly develops into a tolerance and then a dependence.
Nicotine dependence is a form of chronic chemical dependence similar to cocaine or alcohol—which means that smokers often attempt to quit several times before succeeding. And, in addition to the physical dependence, smoking is a learned behavior that becomes embedded in daily routines. It is also often a coping mechanism to reduce the effects of stressors. Therefore, integrated behavioral interventions as well as pharmacotherapies to decrease the likelihood of abstinence syndrome and relapse are often recommended.
If you are trying to quit smoking, contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW for assistance.