THE BLOG

What Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Lesley Gore ('It's My Party') Have in Common

04/16/2015 10:06 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

It's an unlikely pairing. Leonard Nimoy, best known for his recurring role as Spock in Star Trek, recently passed away. His cause of death was emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or end-stage respiratory failure. But the real cause of his death was smoking. As he said in a tweet before his death, "Don't smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP." (That means live long and prosper, the Vulcan advice.) Had he not smoked, Nimoy might indeed have lived longer and prospered.

And Lesley Gore, long known as the songwriter and singer of songs such as the iconic "It's My Party," also recently died. Her cause of death was lung cancer, as I recently discussed in a HuffPost blog on lung cancer in women. She also smoked, even teaching her friends how to smoke when she was young.

Both of these losses of stars who entertained us have smoking in common. At the same time, new research has identified that smoking is responsible for more deaths than we had thought before. This now means that smoking is responsible for 21 percent of all deaths in America, more than we had known before (540,000 deaths from smoking related illnesses out of 2.5 million deaths in the United States annually). The 14 new smoking-related illnesses include kidney failure, breast cancer, prostate cancer, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, infections, intestinal vascular obstruction, and a variety of lung diseases. Those 21 diseases we had previously known to be associated with smoking were cancers of the lung, head and neck, throat, colon, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder and esophagus, as well as leukemia, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, aneurysm, emphysema, pneumonia and other infections.

So now we must look at ourselves, at our families and among our friends and ask, "Still smoking? Why? Where do we get help in stopping?"

Here are my tips.

• Don't smoke. If you do, get the help of your physician, family and friends to stop. For advice on how to discuss this with your physician, see my book Surviving American Medicine.

Medicines can help smoking cessation, so discuss them with your doctor.

The issue of electronic cigarettes is controversial. They can cause lifelong nicotine addiction and lead to smoking. But for smokers, they can sometimes help avoid combustible smoking and reduce cancer risk. Discuss this with your physician.

Above all, avoid cigarettes, and you will live longer, prosper better, and also have more parties. Leonard Nimoy and Lesley Gore, we will miss you both.