Posted on Nov 10, 2022, 5 p.m.
Smoking has been well-documented to be detrimental to many areas of health including addiction and mortality, yet despite the dangers, it remains popular, and quitting is a difficult process that may require help from professionals.
This study recently published in JAMA found that quitting smoking is associated with reduced mortality risk and the sooner you stop, the more benefits people are likely to experience adding to the growing body of evidence supporting the impact of smoking and the benefits of stopping.
According to the CDC, approximately 12.5% of the population in America was smoking cigarettes in 2020, despite this habit being the leading cause of preventable death in the country. This is a global issue as tobacco use kills approximately 5 million people a year, accounting for over 20% of all deaths of adult men and 5% of deaths among adult women.
To add to this according to Dr. Mary Martinasek, who is an associate professor in public health at the University of Tampa and a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care, within America alone this dangerous habit causes 87% of lung cancer deaths, 32% of coronary heart deaths, and 79% of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
“Smoking harms almost every organ in the body. Most importantly, it causes one in every four deaths secondary to cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks, and stroke) [which equals to about 800,000 deaths per year],” said Dr. Pushan Jani who is a UTHealth pulmonologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, who goes on to add “It causes 160,000 deaths secondary to lung cancer every year. It causes a lung disease called COPD, which is prevalent in 16 million U.S. adults and is the third biggest cause of death in the [U.S.].”
This study examined smoking and cessation and the associated mortality risks using information available from over 500,000 adults enrolled in the US National Health Interview Survey, specifically looking at how these risks differed based on race, ethnicity, and sex; particularly noting smoking status as a current smoker, former smoker, or never smoked, and looking at when people quit and for how many years they had stopped.
The main finding from the analysis revealed that smoking was associated with having a double or more mortality rate across all groups, and quitting smoking was associated with a reduced mortality risk which was particularly pronounced based on the age of quitting smoking. According to the researchers the sooner that people quit smoking the better the results: “quitting smoking before age 45 years was associated with reductions of approximately 90% of the excess mortality risk associated with continued smoking, and quitting at ages 45 to 64 years was associated with reductions of approximately 66% of this excess risk, irrespective of race and ethnicity.”
“The key point is that smoking is extremely harmful to human health, but critically, quitting smoking really works. The younger smokers quit, and the more time accrues since they quit, the greater the health benefits,” said study author Dr. Blake Thomson. “As we observed in this study, those who quit before [age 35] avoided almost all of the excess mortality risk associated with continued smoking. The benefits of quitting, even at older ages, are tremendous. It’s never too late to quit, but the earlier, the better.”
This study was not without limitations such as smoking habits being self-reported from a single point in time and did not account for those who quit later or started smoking. There may have been a risk of confounding and the team did not look at geographically related factors. Additionally, it was noted that those who quit may have been more likely to have a disease or be at increased risk for death, thus the data may underestimate how quitting can help those who are currently healthy.
“These findings are important for both those who currently smoke cigarettes and for those who formerly smoked cigarettes. For current smokers, it is essential to take quitting seriously. Even after relapses, keep trying. It is always worth encouraging another attempt and highlighting its benefits,” Dr. Thomson said adding that.“For former smokers and their healthcare providers, the message is to continue to celebrate that achievement and work to keep it a permanent change. This is important for both individuals who smoke and for their healthcare team to understand.”
“Many states offer free quit programs and free resources to quit smoking. Reaching out to a respiratory therapist [RT] can be a good first start. RTs work in local hospitals and healthcare facilities and have the knowledge to assist with quitting smoking,” said Dr. Martinasek going on to add that “There are also free apps that can assist with quitting smoking and provide group support. The only products that are approved for quitting are prescribed medications and over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies. These, coupled with quit coach counseling, can be effective methods for quitting.”
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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