Now that you stopped smoking are you free? - (10/13/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Eddie, 45, came into the pharmacy to browse and to flip through some magazines. The pharmacist looked at Eddie’s patient profile and said, “Are you finished with your smoking cessation therapy?” "Heck, yeah,"' replied Eddie. "I guess I'm off the hook for cancer and heart and breathing problems, eh, Doc?" The pharmacist did not want to harsh Eddie's happy buzz. However, monitoring his health should be a concern for the rest of his life. Mainly because a few myths circulate among former smokers. So let us respond to some of Eddie’s rationalizations for quitting.  

True or false? “The fact that I quit smoking is a good thing.” True, from better breath to unstained fingers, smoking cessation is a personal triumph. Eddie will save money too. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28, which means a pack-a-day habit sucks $188 out of your wallet each month or $2,292 per year. Eddie has smoked for 30 years. That’s almost $70,000. That’s a decent down payment on a house, plus a new car, and a really snazzy shirt and pants.
True or false? “I will be at a lesser risk for heart problems.” Affirmative. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the top cause of American deaths. Cigarette-related CVD accounts for 20% of those deaths. And why not? The 7,000+ chemicals in “butt smoke” narrow the arteries tighter than eight lanes of traffic trying to get onto a one-way bicycle path. In time, your doctor will ask you which, if not all, of your body parts would you like amputated. As for stroke, smoking messes up the good fat versus bad fat in your bloodstream. Before long, you will be dragging a functionless leg and an arm to the ER, trying to explain why you are not drunk, but just dying. Since Eddie is now a former smoker, he can expect his stroke risk to be the same as that of a non-smoker after 2 to 5 years. He can also expect his heart disease risk to be that of a non-smoker's – in about 15 years. “Fifteen years?” exclaimed Eddie. As the pharmacist said, “Nothing is good about smoking. But nothing is worse than dropping dead of a heart attack at age 50, during your daughter’s wedding.”      

True or false? “I will be at lesser risk of lung complications.” Yup! When Eddie was in the aqueous milieu of his mom’s womb, nature was prepping his lungs to suck in glorious oxygen. Instead, with each drag of a fag, benzene, formaldehyde, and other toxins that do not belong in pink, healthy pulmonary tissue are shoving out clean air. The lungs ultimately rebel. Pneumonia, infection, and destruction of the exquisite anatomy with which God entrusted us will be Eddie’s fate. Just stop that!

True or false? “I won’t get lung cancer.” OK, hold the phone, Eddie. Even if one quits today, the chance of having lung cancer remains for the rest of one’s life, although the risk gradually decreases over time. For example, a heavy smoker who has quit for 10 years reduces his cancer risk only by half compared to a heavy smoker who did not stop. Why so long? Carcinogenic tar soaks into the lungs of a smoker like red wine on a prom dress, never to go away. Look at a cross-section of a deceased smoker’s lung. You will wonder who burned the pot roast. The sad truth is that 2 out of 5 lung cancer cases occur in people who quit smoking 15 years before, states a National Cancer Institute study.

"Then why bother?" asked Eddie. The final stages of lung cancer are horrendous. Likely, the disease has metastasized to other organs, such as the brain. Breathing is impossible without assistance. Quality of life nears zero. Do stop smoking! Appreciate life! As you age, get as many lung scans as your insurance allows. If you are having trouble quitting, get professional help. In time, you will have saved enough money to buy that jaunty shirt that you will want to wear to your daughter's wedding.   

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.


Show All News Headlines

Click Here For HowToTakePills© Archive