Most people are aware that smoking is a major contributing factor to heart and lung disease. We also know that smoking certainly doesn’t make a person cool or glamorous. In fact, the lingering smell, the tobacco stains on teeth and the resulting bad breath make smoking a very ugly habit.
But there are other negatives to smoking that may not be so readily known. For instance, smokers are more likely to develop a variety of cancers. One reason is the direct effect of cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke that are transferred through the lungs to the bloodstream and on to all parts of the body.
A second, indirect effect of tobacco is weakening of the body’s immune system – its defense against viruses, bacteria and carcinogens that cause malignant cell changes. This effect has been linked with high incidence of metastasis – the spread of the cancer cells from the primary tumor to other parts of the body.
The good news for smokers is that if you quit before the cancer takes hold or the immune system is too weakened, you can reverse the bad effects of smoking and restore function in a relatively short period.
Over 350, 000 Americans die each year from the effects of smoking. Millions more live on with crippled lungs and over-strained hearts. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of emphysema, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and coronary heart disease.
Black males have a higher rate of death from lung cancer than any other group. Some studies show a clear link between cigarette smoking and sexual impotence or erectile dysfunction. Pregnant women who smoke have more miscarriages and low-weight babies than do non-smoking mothers. Young children who live with smokers have more colds and lung infections than other children.
Breathing in the smoke of someone else’s cigarette makes the heart beat faster and the level of carbon monoxide in the blood increase.
Cigarette smokers’ breath is worse; body odor is changed; and often smokers develop stained teeth and a hacking cough.
The problems are many. Cigarette companies have spent billions of dollars trying to link smoking to the beautiful things in life. Despite Congress’ ban of cigarette ads from radio and TV, cigarette companies continue to find ways to promote smoking. Despite the tobacco settlement money – billions of dollars to states and territories, including the Virgin Islands – the long-term effects and damage from cigarette smoking are not being addressed.
Kicking the habit is not easy, but we, as a community, must join hands to prevent any more persons, especially young people, from smoking. We must use whatever economic opportunities we have, such as the tobacco settlement money, to address many issues related to prevention, treatment and long-term care of those already devastated by the disease.
Have you ever seen a victim of cigarette smoking after the cancer makes itself known to you? The smoker loses all interest in food – and when forced to eat, nothing stays down; they vomit and vomit and vomit; they are constantly in severe pain; they cannot catch their breath; they are unable to go to work, to drive their car, to cook, to eat with other people because everything smells bad and the smells drive them crazy. They have no energy to bathe themselves. They are in a state of living hell. If they cannot receive services and help, they will die a slow, miserable death.
It is never too late to stop smoking. It is never too late to help those who are ill from the effects of smoking. We must use every opportunity not only to prevent smoking but also to help those suffering from the effects of smoking.


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