You may be holding your future in your hands

Michael Jessen - You may be holding your future in your hands

BC Lung Association Director for the Nelson area, Michael Jessen, talks about the choice everyone has to make when it comes to smoking - and the impact that choice can have on public health.

The lighter’s flame touches the end of your cigarette; you take a deep drag and the warm smoke enters your lungs.

If it’s your first cigarette, you might instantly find it harder to breathe. The smoke tastes heavy and robust, not entirely unpleasant and reminiscent of drinking coffee for the first time.

Then comes the nicotine hit and you feel suddenly energized, slightly light-headed, and almost dizzy.

You have an urge to cough, but you’re also enticed by something you’ve seen friends, relatives, and movie stars do.

If you keep smoking with regularity for a month or so, you don’t feel right if you go too long without a cigarette. You miss it most in the morning or when undergoing stress.

You tell yourself that you’re immune to addiction, but your muscles tense up – especially your jaw – and you become distracted and irritable as your brain cries out for a cigarette.

The urge to smoke is persistent. It gnaws and gnaws at you relentlessly until you give in.

You have joined the more than 1 billion of the human family that smoke tobacco products, but beware; it comes at a high price.

A U.S. National Cancer Institute study published last December found that people who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetimes had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death. Those who smoked one to 10 cigarettes a day had an 87 percent greater risk.

The link to lung cancer was especially high. The group that smoked less than one cigarette a day over their lifetimes had nine times as high a risk of dying from the disease than non-smokers, while those who smoked one to 10 cigarettes a day had a 12-fold increased risk.

“The message is that there is no safe level of smoking,” said Maki Inoue Choi, NCI researcher and lead author of the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

You tell yourself – like my father did – that the big C won’t get you. And you may be right, but still you join the about 16 million people who die annually before their 70th birthday while suffering the debilitating effects of cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and diabetes.

My father died at 64. The colon cancer appeared cured after an operation, but the cancer found a new home in his lungs and in a few short days, breathing became impossible with the inevitable result.

An early, painful, sorrowful death is not the only legacy of tobacco smokers.

A just published report by the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute says smoking and its side effects cost the world’s economies more than US$ 1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity.

In 2013-2014, global tobacco excise taxes generated nearly US$ 269 billion in government revenues. Of this, less than US$ 1 billion was invested in tobacco control.

The WHO/NCI study found that demand reduction policies and programs for tobacco products are highly cost-effective. Such interventions include significant tobacco tax and price increases; bans on tobacco industry marketing activities; prominent pictorial health warning labels; smoke-free policies and population-wide tobacco cessation programs to help people stop smoking.

Tobacco smoking is now confirmed as a massive health crisis waiting to strike; but skip that first cigarette and you’ll likely never have to worry about becoming a statistic.

If you are thinking about quitting, the time is always right. is a FREE province-wide smoking cessation resource managed by the BC Lung Association and funded by the BC Ministry of Health. QuitNow’s been helping British Columbians quit for almost a decade, putting tools and resources at your fingertips 24/7. For advice, call 1-800-665-5864.

You can help the Lung Association breathe new life into the fight for lung health by seeking assistance to stop smoking or abstaining from that first cigarette.

Your future could be in your hands. Or not.

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Page Last Updated: 10/01/2017