Friday, March 9, 2012

"Just" a Social Smoker?

Stop and think- do you know a teenager who is smoking? Or one you THINK is starting to smoke? If you start smoking in junior high or high school, there is an astounding 80% chance you will be a smoker the rest of your life. Today, the Surgeon General released a report about smoking habits of our American youth. Despite tons of warnings and educational programs, one in FIVE high school students are smoking. Can you believe that for every American who dies annually from cancer-443,000- there are now TWO youths just beginning to smoke? If you do the math, you'll see that an average of 1,213 Americans die every day as a result of this deadly, intensely addictive habit.

Yes, there are those rare adults who can simply walk away from a pack per day smoking habit- God bless them! The majority of smokers, however, tell a different story. I have many men and women patients in their 30's and 40's who are incredibly frustrated that they cannot seem to permanently quit smoking. The typical story is that they started smoking "socially" along with drinks and happy hours during college, and never intended to become a "real" smoker. Many only still smoke on weekends, but they are so habitually tied in with a group of friends or co-workers that use smoking (and often drinking) as their social bond, that it feels rude and counter-culture to quit. Other smokers started out as "social" weekend users, but found more and more that stress was "relieved" with a quick cigarette, and that it served as a legitimate reason to step outside and take a break from work, home, or kids. Women tell me that they CAN"T quit because they will "get fat". There are a million reasons offered as reasons not to quit, including the fact that some simply enjoy it. BUT...there is simply no amount of nicotine & cigarette smoking that is good for you. We can rationalize an alcoholic drink per day, as there truly can be medical benefit from that, but absolutely none from smoking.

Very few adult smokers are thrilled with their habit. Most would like to quit, just as most overweight people would like to lose weight. If you are a smoker, PLEASE schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss a plan to quit smoking. There are numerous ways your physician can help. The average long term smoker takes at least 5 serious attempts to permanently quit- and many take more than that, but you CAN be successful. Please don't wait for you or your loved one (smoking is rarely a solo sport) to suffer a heart attack, stroke or cancer to get serious about quitting.

BOTTOM LINE: SMOKING is addictive and deadly. Period. Don't let anyone you know START smoking, and help encourage those smokers you to to seek help from their physician to quit.

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