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Smoking and Your Health An Urgent Revisiting

Margit Cathrine Moller

When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in July, 2011 that the federal government cannot be drawn into lawsuits against tobacco companies and held liable for damages, the issue of smoking and health were once again in the headlines.

The best way to revisit the health and smoking issue is to use a factsheet published recently for public consumption by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the latest, most objective, most research-based, and most comprehensive presentation of the health risks of smoking.

A. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body.

B. Smoking and Death
1. Smoking causes death. In the US, an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States are attributed to cigarettes.
2. Smoking causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
3. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women. d. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease.

C. Smoking and Increased Health Risks Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times; stroke by 2 to 4 times; men developing lung cancer by 23 times; women developing lung cancer by 13 times; and dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.

D. Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease
1. Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
2. Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries) and puts smokers at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease (i.e., obstruction of the large arteries in the arms and legs that can cause a range of problems from pain to tissue loss or gangrene).
3. Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm (i.e., a swelling or weakening of the main artery of the body—the aorta—where it runs through the abdomen).

E. Smoking and Respiratory Disease
1. Smoking causes lung cancer.
2. Smoking causes lung diseases (e.g., emphysema, bronchitis, chronic airway obstruction) by damaging the airways and alveoli (i.e., small air sacs) of the lungs.

F. Smoking and Cancer Smoking causes the following cancers: acute myeloid leukemia; bladder cancer; cancer of the cervix; cancer of the esophagus; kidney cancer; cancer of the larynx (voice box); lung cancer; cancer of the oral cavity (mouth); cancer of the pharynx (throat); stomach cancer; cancer of the uterus.

G. Smoking and Other Health Effects Smoking has many adverse reproductive and early childhood effects, including increased risk for: infertility; preterm delivery; stillbirth; low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).