Eric R Goldberg, MD - Smoking in 2011
Smoking in 2011. I know it's bad for me, but THAT bad?
It would be hard to find someone in the modern world who has not heard that smoking is bad for you. Since 1964, the US Surgeon General has issued reports documenting this. Cigarettes carry warning labels, advertising has been limited to certain venues and banned from television. Some cities have banned cigarette smoking in public areas and restaurants. Graphic smoking cessation ads are seen on television and massive lawsuits have been filed against the tobacco companies.
The most recent Surgeon General report reviews the current state of research regarding the effects of smoking on the human body. Some of the more startling evidence reveals the immediate effect of smoking on the body - and that even one cigarette causes damage that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The report states that in addition to the long term consequences of smoking there are immediate physiologic changes that occur with smoke inhalation. Blood becomes more prone to forming clots - and a clot in a coronary artery is what causes a heart attack. In addition, cigarette smoke exposure causes inflammation, blood vessel walls to become "stickier", and bad cholesterol to be deposited in those sticky arteries, all of which are key processes in the development of cardiovascular disease. These biological changes can occur even with exposure to secondhand smoke - so even 1 cigarette increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
These immediate effects are the reason why smoking fewer cigarettes per day does not reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking is associated with marked improvements in the risk of myocardial infarction, sudden death, and stroke. Using the nicotine or other medications to help quit is a much less risky prospect than the risk of continued smoking.
So if you smoke, even only "socially" or "when I drink", stop. If you are trying to quit and need help, speak to your doctor about medical options.