When I travelled to Colorado last year, I visited Seven Falls in Colorado Springs. Seven Falls is a series of seven cascading waterfalls of South Cheyenne Creek in South Cheyenne Cañon. To get to the falls, you walk a one-mile scenic path through the canyon, passing trees, towering cliffs and a winding stream. And along the way, passing more “no smoking” signs than I have seen anywhere.
Those signs reminded me that I have not written much about smoking on this blog. I grew up when smoking was socially acceptable and widely practiced, and no one worried about the health effects. My mother and her friends smoked, even in our house. She would drive us to the grocery store, stay in the car and send me inside with 50 cents to purchase a pack of cigarettes for her. She told me, “Tell the clerk it’s for your mother.” In today’s world, my mother would be arrested for child neglect for doing that.
When I was an adult, she quit the habit but unfortunately not before smoking had caused atherosclerosis (hardening) of her leg arteries,limiting blood flow and making walking painful. Surgery corrected this, but the arteries in her brain were also affected, leading to dementia in late life.
Cigarette advertising was everywhere, billboards, television, magazines. Even JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, had cigarettes ads. I went to medical conferences where, during the breaks, physicians would go into the lobby and light up cigarettes. After just listening to a lecture on heart disease!
All that changed when scientists uncovered the harmful effects of smoking. The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required the following health warning, prescribed by Congress, to be placed on all cigarette packages sold in the United States: CAUTION: CIGARETTE SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.
Gradually, almost all public places in the United States have been made smoke free. But even though the smoking rate has steadily declined, smoking is still the leading cause of death and preventable illness in this country and probably much of the world.
Most people know that cigarette smoking harms our health, being directly linked to heart attacks, strokes, lung and other cancers and emphysema.
But you may not know about some other effects that are less well known or more recently discovered. I’m going to share those with you along with some photos from my walk at Seven Falls.
Smoking affects fertility, pregnancy, and infants . Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and can affect a man’s sperm. Smoking increases risks for:
- Preterm (early) delivery
- Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
- Low birth weight
- Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)
- Ectopic (outside the uterus) pregnancy
- Cleft lip in infants
Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can impair control of blood glucose (sugar). The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers. Diabetes is a major cause of atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries in the heart, kidney, legs, which is also aggravated by smoking. Double trouble.
Smoking can affect bone health, leading to osteoporosis. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked, and are at greater risk for broken bones. Smokers tend to hurt more than non smokers and narcotic type pain meds don’t relieve pain as well as in non-smokers.
Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss. It yellows the teeth as tar builds up in the enamel, also leading to bad breath.
Smoking can harm your eyesight. It increases your risk for
- cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see) and
- age-related macular degeneration (damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision).
Smoking aggravates and may even cause several chronic inflammatory diseases, including
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus- SLE or lupus
- Multiple sclerosis
And, it affects your appearance.
By decreasing circulation, smoking causes the skin to weaken and be more susceptible to infection, wrinkles and acne.
And it increases the risk for grey hair and baldness.
This is the bad news. Fortunately, the good news is that there are many resources available to help you quit smoking. The link at the bottom will lead you to help. Of course, you should ask your own physician for advice.
If you don’t find the information you need, ask me a question; this is a vast topic and there is much more we can explore.
If you are a “quitter”, smoking that is, I would appreciate your sharing what helped you get SMOKE FREE. Your experience may help someone else reading this post.
Here is the link to becoming
For help from your state quitline:
And here is the link to Seven Falls for you to explore.