Could there really be anyone today who does not know that smoking is harmful to our health? I thought not, but recently I was surprised.

There is a nice young greengrocer in my neighborhood, and while I am buying fruit and vegetables from him, I tend to mention that I advise all my patients to stop eating junk food and to eat more fruits and vegetables instead. And I tell him what a great thing it is that he makes his living purely from selling food that is good for his clients. Suddenly, one day I saw him smoking a cigarette. As a doctor, I permitted myself to speak up, in a low-key way. All I said was “Isn’t it a shame?” To my further surprise, he took the trouble to inform me, with utter complacency, that he knows full well what is said about smoking, but there are researches that show one thing, and researches that show another, so he is not convinced that smoking is such a bad thing. It was shocking and painful to hear.

No doubt about it - cigarette smoking is extremely harmful, and it was proven to be the main cause of lung cancer as early as the 1950s. The same team of British researchers who published this finding followed a group of more than 35,000 men for 50 years starting in 1951. They learned that those who smoked died on average 10 years before the non-smokers. Of those who smoked, 50% died from smoking-related illnesses. The killer diseases that are caused by smoking include lung cancer, cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (such as emphysema). A principle cause of death among smokers is vascular disease including heart attacks and strokes. This is because smoking directly injures the endothelial cells which line the inner surface of the blood vessels.

Smoking cigarettes also contributes to many illness including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and asthma. Smoking reduces female fertility and causes male impotence. Smoking is harmful for the development of the fetus in the womb, and parents who smoke harm their own children’s health and make them more likely to suffer from ear, nose, throat and lung diseases.

Of course smoking is also bad for one’s wallet, and whoever spends 30 shekels a day on their habit will manage to burn 10,000 shekels per year, and after 50 years will have burnt half a million shekels.

The cigarette is a sophisticated device that gives a small, temporary pleasure through the dopamine system of the brain. After 30 to 60 minutes, this pleasure changes to restlessness, poor concentration and irritability, until another cigarette is smoked.

As has already been explained - such a small pleasure has a great cost. Only the manufacturers of this cruel product profit from the whole miserable business.

The good news is that many of the harms caused by smoking can be turned around, and the moment one stops smoking, one’s health will improve progressively. What is needed is only to decide to stop while there is still time. There is no room for complacency. If one delays, one may well arrive at a crisis point due to being diagnosed with a terrible illness, or due to a heart attack or other such situation where the damage to the body is permanent and cannot be undone. And then it is really a shame.

Dr Miriam Maisel MD is a specialist in Family Practice with a private clinic in Tel Aviv where she emphasizes nutrition and lifestyle. She is also a licensed practitioner of hypnosis. www.dr-maisel.co.il

References:

1. Doll R, Peto R, et al. Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years observation on male British doctors. British Medical Journal, 2004. Doi: 10.1136/bmj.38142.554479

2. www.cancer.org.il

3. Messner B and Bernhard D. 2014. Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease: Mechanisms of Endothelial Dysfunction and Early Atherogenesis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol  34:509-515

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Miriam Maisel

Dr Miriam Maisel is a General Practioner practicing in Tel Aviv and Scotland. She emphasizes the use of nutrition for health promotion...
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