We do some of the craziest things that put our lives on the line—driving recklessly, eating poorly, and abusing drugs and alcohol. Smoking cigarettes is another of the fast roads to self-destruction. Although a recent survey found that cigarette smoking is down about 20% in the U.S. than it was 50 years ago, one smoker is too many.

More than 1,300 people die each day in this country due to smoking. Smokers die on average 13 years earlier than non-smokers.

Every cigarette has a negative effect on the body. Chemicals in tobacco reach the lungs where the blood then carries toxins to every organ in the body. Smoking lowers immunity, causes coughing and breathing difficulties, problems with blood pressure, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases chances of getting cancer, heart disease, strokes, and cataracts.

Smoking is bad for our looks, as well. It ages the skin, teeth, and fingernails. Non-smokers are often offended by the lingering smell of cigarette smoke on the smoker, which they cannot detect themselves.

And e-cigs are not any better. The battery operated devices contain not only nicotine but unknown chemicals. Since they are not regulated, no one knows exactly what is in them. There is no evidence that e-cigs help smokers quit the habit, as some claim. But it does appear that if kids start with them, they are more likely to progress to regular cigarettes.

There is the expense to consider also. An average pack of cigarettes costs about $5.31. This is money that can be used on hobbies, our families, and even necessities.

If you are reluctant to stop smoking to improve your own health, think of the people around you. About 49,000 deaths each year are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

The good news is that the body responds well once smoking is stopped.  We begin to heal within 20 minutes of the last cigarette.

My father was a smoker for most of his life. He died at the age of 73 from lung cancer. He is gone 13 years, and I miss him every day. I understand when he started smoking in the 1940s that it was the cool thing to do. People were not aware of the dangers. But honestly, I’m angry with him for not stopping sooner, not wanting to be with me and the rest of the family longer.

Today, everyone knows the risks of smoking. Everyone knows every puff is deadly. Please care enough about your life and your loved ones to quit the habit today.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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