Most smokers have probably calculated how much they would save after cutting out a weekly pack (easily $300 a year). Imagine that on a larger scale. Currently, about one in every five American adults is a smoker. If the rate dropped to 4.9 percent, the U.S. could save $70 billion in medical costs.
We’re not just talking about saving money, but saving the lives of your loved ones and yourself. Smoking is the leading preventable killer, according to the American Heart Association.
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Each time you take a drag, thousands of chemicals enter your body, including the toxic and carcinogenic kind. Smoking’s effect on your beauty (read: wrinkles, dull skin) serves as an immediate reminder of what’s going on inside that puts you at risk for disease down the line, like heart disease and stroke.
While nicotine is the addictive agent, it is not the huge health-and-beauty buster (if you forget it is addictive). But the hydrocarbons you absorb with every tobacco puff are huge, health-and-beauty busters.
Hydrocarbons set up an inflammatory reaction that destroys the inner lining cells of your blood vessels, contributing plaque, but also destroying those cells ability to make that beauty-and-pleasure champion nitric oxide. You want nitric oxide -- it dilates key blood vessels for men during sex (it’s what Viagra prolongs) and gives women orgasmic pleasure also (both as a result and for women even if you do not partner with a guy). And since even social smoking increases plaque in arteries to your brain, and the brain is the biggest sexual organ, tobacco ruins performance, enjoyment and desire.
If that weren’t enough, your complexion is another telltale sign of smoking’s aging effects on you, whether it shows now or ten years down the line. Healthy blood flow sends much-needed nutrients throughout your body and nitric oxide gives your face its healthy glow. Smoking compromises this blood flow as well as the nitric oxide release, resulting in a yellow or grayish skintone -- not your best look.
Your skin texture itself suffers too, since the hydrocarbons of tobacco reduce the production of collagen and elastin. These structural proteins keep skin supple and without the passive wrinkles of aging (the ones not associated with muscle contraction -- these passive wrinkles can’t even be made non-wrinkles by Botox). Further, without this buoyancy boost your skin creases with movement (like puckering your lips and squinting your eyes), forming wrinkles, which can be seen under a microscope before you can see smoking’s aging effects.
But we’re not done talking smoke yet. (Exhausting, isn’t it? Imagine how tired your body gets from this stuff.)
When smoke robs your body of oxygen, your hair becomes dull and prone to more breakage. Tar can yellow or even brown your teeth and nails. You may be able to mask these very visible effects of smoking, but there are some things that just cannot be stopped inside your body.
Free radicals oxidize (chem class refresher: snatch away an electron from) molecules in your body. They can be damaging in large quantities -- or if antioxidants inside your cells aren’t available to fight them -- and can increase your risk of lung, breast, bladder and many other cancers.
Unfortunately, all these beauty blasting and pleasure ruining risks even extend to secondhand smoke. The majority of smoke isn’t inhaled, but goes into our environment. Being around a smoker for four hours is the equivalent of you smoking a cigarette!
But this problem is not beyond our control, and the government, employers and colleges are taking action. As of this summer, 500 U.S. colleges began enforcing 100 percent tobacco- or smoke-free policies. Even the University of Kentucky will expel you for your third on-campus smoking event. And these policies are making a difference. The first published report came out showing that student smoking rates declined with the Indiana University smoking ban, and those who didn't quit still smoked fewer cigarettes as a result.
What’s the best quitting method? According to recent research, a combination of behavioral therapy and medicine. A new study from the University of Missouri found that college-aged smokers are more impulsive, so programs directed at changing this impulsivity may be effective on a grand scale.
Social pressures may be enough to force someone to consider quitting. Even after college, there will be a new cost to smoking. Soon enough, it’s going to become acceptable for places to not hire smokers. The Cleveland Clinic has already taken the lead in this initiative.
So we say, please pass along our quitting guide from the “You” series to those smokers in your life. Nothing is worth the cost of cigarettes.