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Stolen: Stop Smoking

JOANNE STOLEN
special to the daily

A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal states that “It is never too late for people to stop [smoking], even when they have lung cancer.” The studies show that preliminary evidence that smoking cessation after diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer improves outcomes and the risk for death is halved in patients who stop smoking. This finding is based on research being done by the UK Center for Tobacco Control Studies and the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle. Some of the data estimated that, for a type of cancer called early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the five-year survival for 65-year-old patients was 33 percent if they continued to smoke and 70 percent if they stopped smoking. Critics claim the survival rates “are staggeringly high” and that they appear to

be “outlandishly optimistic so the figures need to be taken in their proper context that this is just early-stage lung cancer patients rather than lung cancer patients as a whole. The situation is quite different for patients with advanced disease – and they form the majority of patients diagnosed with lung cancer. Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer are in the last months of their lives and fewer than one in three patients with lung cancer survive even one year.

This was certainly the case with the husband of a good friend of mine who had been a chain smoker for most of his life. He stopped smoking shortly after they were married but he was already having medical problems and the doctor told him everything that was wrong with him was because of his smoking. She is now a widow. I am amazed that I still see quite a few young folks smoking. They are often pretty obvious because they are standing outside a building in the cold and many leave their butts on the hall floors. Two young men lit up while I was sharing a ride up the lift, to my displeasure, not too long ago. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances.

I have had several acquaintances struggle to quit many times.

Recently an article was brought in by one of my students at CMC about “New Tobacco Danger: Third Hand Smoke.” The research done at California’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory claims that the film left by burning tobacco interacts with a chemical in the air to for a brew of potent cancer causing substances which coat clothing, skin, and dust particles. The most vulnerable are kids crawling around on carpeting. I have a friend who went to extremes trying to rid a newly-bought condo of cigarette smoke, scouring everything, repainting and replacing carpet only to have diminished the smell only partially. It seems it was in the heating ducts as well. When I was in graduate school, one of my colleagues worked with a substance found in nicotine and the effects on mice. The mice developed tumors that were almost equal in size to their bodies. Yes, very gross!

Fortunately Americans, smoking rates have shrunk by nearly half in three decades. Smoking is on the rise in the developing world but falling in developed nations. In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4 percent per year. According to the World Health Organization, between 80,000 and 100,000 kids world-wide start smoking every day. Approximately one quarter of children alive in the Western Pacific Region will die from smoking. About a third of the male adult global population smokes and smoking-related diseases kill one in 10 adults globally, and by 2030 – if current trends continue – smoking will kill one in six people. Pretty sobering statistics, especially since smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death.


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