On Thursday, December 9, 2010, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced the publication of How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. This report reveals new scientific findings about how deadly cigarettes are and how quickly they can damage your body.
"The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately," Benjamin said in releasing the report. "Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer."
The report also explains why it is so difficult to quit smoking. According to the research, cigarettes are designed for addiction. The design and contents of current tobacco products make them more attractive and addictive than ever before. Today's cigarettes deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently than cigarettes of many years ago.
Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 cause cancer. Every exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals could damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer. Exposure to smoke also decreases the benefits of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Smoking causes more than 85% of lung cancers and can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. One in three cancer deaths in the U.S. is tobacco-related.
The report describes how the delicate lining of the lungs becomes inflamed as soon as it is exposed to the chemical mixture in cigarette smoke. Over time, the smoke can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack. The report describes how chemicals from tobacco smoke quickly damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot. The evidence in this report shows how smoking causes cardiovascular disease and increases risks for heart attack, stroke, and aortic aneurysm.
Smoking causes many other harmful effects throughout the body, including making it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can cause a miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birth weight, as well as damage to fetal lungs and brain tissue. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, the report finds.
"This report makes it clear - quitting at any time gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking," the Surgeon General said. "It's never too late to quit, but the sooner you do it, the better."
Fortunately, there are now more effective ways to help people quit than ever before. Nicotine replacement is available over the counter and doctors can prescribe medications that improve the chances of successful quit attempts. Smokers can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.
Click here to get the fact sheet.
To download the report, click here.
View the Public Service Announcement by clicking here.