Jo Ann Hummers, EdD, is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She has a private practice at the Nags Head Professional Center. Her work includes DWI assessments and treatment, smoking cessation sessions, and treatment for gambling addiction.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) informs us of some of the health problems that may result from smoking:

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HEART DISEASE

Smoking causes dangerous plaque buildup that can clog and narrow your arteries. Poisons from tobacco smoke also quickly damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot. This can block blood flow and lead to heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack or stroke in nonsmokers.

Quitting smoking will improve your heart health. After just one year, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply. Even if you’ve already had a heart attack, you cut your risk of having another one by a third to a half if you quit smoking. Two to five years after you quit, your risk for stroke falls to about the same as a nonsmoker’s.

DIABETES

Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and smoke, your risk for kidney disease is two to three times higher than if you don’t smoke. Smokers with diabetes also have higher risk for heart disease; eye disease that can cause blindness; nerve damage that leads to numbness, pain, weakness, and poor circulation; and amputations. Smokers who have diabetes also have more difficulty recovering from surgery.

After you quit smoking, you will have better control over your blood sugar levels. When you quit, you will be less likely to have heart or kidney disease, blindness, or amputations.

CANCER

Tobacco smoke contains toxic chemicals that can damage your DNA and lead to cancer. One out of every three cancer deaths in this country is from smoking. Continuing to smoke weakens the cancer-fighting systems of your body. Smoking also can interfere with your cancer treatment. Cancer patients and survivors who continue to smoke are more likely to die from their original cancer, a secondary cancer, or other causes than are cancer patients and survivors who are former smokers or who have never smoked.

FERTILITY AND PREGNANCY

Smoking reduces a woman’s chance of getting pregnant and damages DNA in sperm. Damage to sperm could decrease fertility and lead to miscarriage or birth defects. Men who smoke are more likely to have erectile dysfunction, which can affect reproduction. Women who smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy, delivering their babies early, and stillbirth. Those who smoke during early pregnancy are more likely to have babies born with a cleft lip or palate. Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weight or to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Tobacco smoke also damages the tissues of the unborn baby’s growing brain and lungs and could interfere with the growth of the placenta, the organ that feeds the baby in the womb. This could lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, or low birth weight.

Most people find a combination of resources works best. Many smokers do not quit on their first attempt. Many need several tries to successfully quit. But the benefits are well worth it. Keep trying.

RESOURCES FOR QUITTING

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

www.smokefree.gov

www.cdc.gov/tips

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From cdc.gov/.../pdfs/what-you-need-to-know.pdf

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