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A new study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine suggests that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure and that smoking cessation is the most effective means of harm reduction.
Researchers from Columbia University examined the lung function of 25,000 people, including smokers, ex-smokers, and those who have never smoked.
The study found that people who smoke five cigarettes a day are doing almost as much damage to their lungs as people who smoke more than 30 cigarettes a day.
“Light” or “social” smokers will develop as much lung damage in one year as “heavy” smoking does in nine months. The study also noted that each lit cigarette releases 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are considered to be cancer-causing substances.
“Smoking a few cigarettes a day is much riskier than a lot of people think,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Oelsner, told The Daily Mail.
The study also shows that former smokers and low-intensity current smokers have accelerated lung function decline compared with never-smokers.
Why is smoking bad for the Lungs?
Smoking causes significant changes in your lungs and airways, and the effects of tobacco remain even years after you ditched cigarettes.
“When you smoke, the cells that produce mucus in your lungs and airways grow in size and number. As a result, the amount of mucus increases and thickens,” according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Beat. “Your lungs cannot effectively clean out this excess mucus. So, the mucus stays in your airways, clogs them, and makes you cough. This extra mucus is also prone to infection.”
Later, it causes your lungs to age faster and hinders their natural defense mechanisms from protecting you against infection, which leads to a higher risk of developing and dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
The American Lung Association report that smoking causes 80 percent of COPD deaths.
The CDC reports that roughly nine out of 10 lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking.
Get Help to Quit Smoking
The current study, as well as many others, also suggest that smoking cessation is the most effective means of harm reduction.
The FDA recently announced a rule proposal that aims to present a visual representation of those impacts to those buying cigarettes — health warning labels on every package to motivate smokers to quit smoking.
Latino adults smoke cigarettes at a lower rate (12.1%) than their white peers (19.4%).
However, once they’ve started, Latinos are more likely to keep smoking and only half as likely as whites to successfully quit smoking. Hence, Latinos find it harder to quit smoking.
Quitxt is a smoking cessation program designed specifically to help South Texas Latino young adults quit smoking. The service is led by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, leader of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
Quitxt sends interactive and entertaining texts over four months of service with links to online support, and music and videos.
The service uses text messages, and Facebook Messenger chat to help with motivation to quit, setting a quit date, finding things to do instead of smoking, handling stress, using nicotine replacement if needed, and more.