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Tobacco and Cigarette Smoking: Breaking a Bad Habit, for Good

By 2025, tobacco and cigarette smoking will kill more people worldwide than any other cause (World Health Organization). That’s 10 million people every year who will lose their lives to this deadly, addictive habit that the 2004 Surgeon General's Report cites as the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States.

“A cigarette is a euphemism for a cleverly crafted product that delivers just the right amount of nicotine to keep its user addicted for life before killing the person,” says former World Health Organization director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Why You Should Stop

Oral healthcare providers see the adverse effects of tobacco use in the form of tooth decay, halitosis, gum disease, and tooth discoloration, and we routinely screen for one of its more serious side effects – oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco. The amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit directly contributes to the risk of developing oral cancer. Quitting now may decrease your odds.

As you may know, nicotine and tar, the addictive, toxic, and/or carcinogenic ingredients in tobacco, cause life-threatening conditions, including:

In addition, smokers may develop depression, psychological distress, sexual dysfunction, and cosmetic side effects such as skin wrinkling. Pregnant women who smoke risk low birth weight and birth defects in their babies.

When you light a cigarette, the smoke almost immediately subjects your body to increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as risk of blood clots, stroke, and damaged blood vessels (leading to cholesterol and fatty deposit build up). Studies also show, smokers suffer from decreased cardiac output, coronary blood flow, and oxygen flow to the body's tissues. There is no such thing as safe smoke. Cigar and pipe aficionados could face oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

This deadly habit endangers the lives of your friends and loved ones, too. Secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year and researchers link it to heart disease. In addition, children and babies exposed to tobacco smoke tend to suffer from ear infections and asthma, and may be at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

How to Break the Habit

If you feel shackled to a pack-a-day habit, you are not alone. The American Heart Association reports that approximately 46 million American adults – that’s 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women – smoke and, in doing so, elevate their risk of illness and death from heart attack and stroke.

Nobody wants to endanger their own life, or the lives of friends and loved ones, but smoking cessation – breaking the habit – may seem insurmountable. In fact, more than four out of five smokers say they want to quit. With commitment, a plan, and perseverance, you’ll soon reap the health rewards that non-smokers enjoy.

Before you extinguish your last cigarette, prepare yourself mentally and physically. To overcome the physical addition to nicotine and powerful daily habit, the American Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Lung Association recommend that smokers:

  1. Get real. Make a list of the reasons you want to quit and post it where you will see it every day – such as the bathroom mirror, nightstand, or refrigerator.
  2. Get help. Enlist the support of your family and friends and join a smoking cessation program. If you are not pregnant or nursing, consider over-the-counter nicotine replacement products such as chewing gum, a patch, nasal spray, or an inhaler.
  3. Get healthy. Commit to plenty of rest each night, exercise, a healthy diet, and limit stressful situations.

A Brighter Smile, A Healthier Future

We care about your health and encourage you to focus on the benefits of smoking cessation. You’ll soon take pleasure in a whiter, brighter smile, decreased plaque and tartar buildup, and a decreased risk of developing gum disease, oral cancer, and painful mouth lesions called leukoplakia. Even cutting back on the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day can positively impact your oral healthcare. As our patient, we want you to enjoy life to the fullest.

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