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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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A moment for rebuttal: Busting smoking myths

You know smoking is bad for you. You know you should quit. And yet, you hem and haw and hedge.

“I don't inhale,” you say, or, “I'm only a social smoker.”

In honor of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of November each year, here's a rebuttal to some of that smoke you've been blowing.

 

I don't inhale.

Even though you are reducing the amount of nicotine being absorbed by your body, and possibly taking in fewer toxins, the American Cancer Society warns that smokers who don't inhale are still at increased risk for oral cancers such as lip, mouth and tongue cancer. And you're still breathing secondhand smoke, which is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the World Health Organization).

Tobacco smoke is a mixture of gases and particles. According to the American Cancer Society, it contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds, and more than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful.

 

I don't smoke … much.

All those scary commercials and workplace restrictions must be working: Smokers are cutting back, and occasional smoking is on the rise. Half of U.S. smokers claim to be light or intermittent smokers. Indeed, many don't consider themselves to be smokers at all. Which means they may never see a need to quit.

But even occasional smoking can cause health problems — shortness of breath and coughing, exacerbating allergies and asthma … or worse.

Ladies, listen up: Studies show that women's risk of lung cancer from light smoking is greater than men's when compared to never-smokers of both genders.

 

I don't smoke around my kids.

Are you smoking in the house or car when your children aren't around? The American Cancer Society says evidence is building about the dangers of the “thirdhand” smoke or “residual tobacco smoke” that's clinging to your hair, your clothes and even the dust on your floors.

Scientists are still doing the research, but best-case scenario, your tots already smell like they have a pack-a-day habit. That odor is all around them, and it seeps into their hair and their clothes, too.

 

I don't smoke unless I drink.

Cessation experts acknowledge that alcohol and efforts to quit smoking don't mix — especially if you're hanging around other smokers. It's pretty basic: If your defenses are down, you're far more likely to give in to your cravings — and there's your good buddy with a pack and a light.

Need some motivation to stand strong? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says people who drink and smoke are at higher risk for certain types of cancer, particularly those of the mouth and throat.

 

I only smoke cigars.

Regular cigar smoking increases your risk for many cancers, including cancer of the lungs, lips, esophagus, oral cavity and larynx.

And for those who inhale, cigar smoking may be linked to death from cancer of the pancreas and bladder, too.

According to the American Cancer Society, because cigars contain more tobacco than cigarettes, and because they often burn for much longer, they give off greater amounts of secondhand smoke. And the society warns that all tobacco smoke, whether from cigarettes, pipes or cigars, is known to cause cancer.

 

I'll quit when I get pregnant.

Doctors say smoking and secondhand smoke can increase the risk for miscarriage, birth defects and other pregnancy complications. And smoking also may lower your odds of getting pregnant in the first place. (That applies to dads, too.)

Why risk putting unnecessary chemicals into your body while you're trying?

On that note, many physicians also recommend that you finish with any smoking cessation aids (nicotine patches, gum, etc.) before you try to get pregnant.

 

Sources: American Cancer Society, Tobacco Free Florida, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Tribune wire services

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