Up to 25 percent of Americans smokeand 400,000 of them die from the consequences of lighting up every year. Smoking is a major health hazard, and has been dubbed the chief preventable cause of death in our society by the Surgeon General. In fact, smoking currently causes 1 out of 5 deaths in America! Not convinced yet? What do an actress, a late night talk show host, a baseball player, a singer and the founder of a multi-billion dollar corporation have in common? Each of these public figures was a heavy smoker. And each ended up dying because of their tobacco habit. If you're a smoker, the effects of tobacco spread to literally every part of your body. Let's take a closer look. A mere three seconds after the first puff of a cigarette, the 4,000 chemicals in the smoke make your eyes water and nose run. They also irritate the throat, causing the infamous smoker's cough. And continued exposure to smoking thickens the throat's membranes, resulting in cellular changes that can lead to throat cancer. Smoking's biggest impact, though, can be seen and felt in the lungs. In fact, 90 percent of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking. Why? Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for a year has a similar impact to pouring a full cup of tar down your lungstar that is rich in cancer-causing chemicals. Smoking also increases the amount of mucus the body produces, and mucus serves as the breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. So, a smoker is more likely to come down with a cold, the flu, and bronchitis. Worse still, smokers have a harder time fighting these infections, because their white blood cells are too impaired to resist invading organisms. Smoking is hard on the heart, too. Smokers' hearts beat an extra 10 to 25 times per minute, increasing the risk of heart attack. Smoking can also cause up to a 15 percent increase in the risk of having potentially deadly heart attack and stroke. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas present in car exhaust. It also present in cigarette smoke! This chemical leads to decreased oxygen to the brain, the skin and other organs. The result can be slowed comprehension, wrinkled, grayish skin and significantly reduced energy. Cigarettes even affect bedroom activity: Men and women are considerably less likely to be fertile if they smoke, and a great number of tobacco-using men experience erectile dysfunction. And let's not forget the financial costs of smoking. Let's say you started a half-pack a day habit in high school, paying a low $4.50 a pack. By the time you're in your mid-30s, you'll have spent at least $16,420-and that's not counting the extra costs of health care! Smoking is bad for you, but it also hurts your family! Spouses of smokers are 20 percent more likely to contact lung disease, and second-hand smoke contributes to illnesses and even deaths in children. Taking the plunge to quit smoking can be scarybut it can also save your life! Talk to your doctor today about options for quitting.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012