Great American Smokeout 2009: More Reasons to Quit Smoking

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November 29, 2009 marks the 34th annual celebration of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that after years of declining tobacco use, the number of American smokers increased last year to about 46 million – an increase of 20%.

A trio of studies out this week offers more reasons to kick the smoking habit:

Increased Risk of Seizures
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School teamed up to study the effects of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking on epilepsy. The found that neither caffeine nor alcohol increases the chance of having a seizure, but smoking increases the risk significantly.

Data was obtained from the Nurses’ Health Study, a group of over 116,000 female registered nurses aged 25-42 years old, and found that even after controlling for confounding factors such as stroke, brain tumor or hypertension, current smokers were at a higher risk of having seizures. The number of cigarettes smoked per day did not seem to affect the results either way, but the longer one smoked, the more the risk went up.

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The results are available online, and will be published in the February 2010 issue of Epilepsia.

Increased Back and Spine Problems
Neurosurgeons from the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN) found that both current and former smokers are more likely to have back problems and chronic back pain than non-smokers. The physicians attribute this to nicotine, which restricts the flow of blood to the discs that cushion the spine. For those that undergo surgery for back problems, smoking compromises the patient’s ability to recover.

Increased Risk to Toddlers and Obese Children
If not for yourself, think of the effect of second-hand smoke on children. The American Heart Association found that toddlers and obese children suffer more than other youth when exposed to second-hand smoke.

Dr. John Anthony Bauer, one of the study’s authors and an investigator for the Nationawide Children’s Hospital and Research Institute at Ohio State University, found that toddlers, children aged 2 to 5, were at four times the risk of vascular injury from second-hand smoke exposure than other children with similar exposure, and this risk increased if the child was overweight. Obese adolescent children exposed to tobacco smoke were at double the risk of vascular damage. Additionally, toddlers exposed to cigarette smoke had a 30% reduction in a type of cell involved in repair and maintenance of healthy blood vessels.

The vascular damage detected in the children was similar to the well-recognized risks for heart disease in adults, suggesting long-term impact on health. With many markers of heart disease beginning earlier because of the increased rate of obesity and type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents, exposure to tobacco smoke can further damage the health of the child into adulthood.

To quit smoking, the ACS offers an interactive web page and a telephone hotline at 800-227-2345.

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