A new study, which followed nearly 1 million people over 10 years, concludes that smoking is even deadlier than we thought, accounting for more than 60,000 additional deaths per year and five additional diseases.
Appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease (caused by inadequate blood flow), and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco.
"Analyzing deaths among the participants from 2000 to 2011, the researchers found that, compared with people who had never smoked, smokers were about twice as likely to die from infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments not previously linked to tobacco, and hypertensive heart disease, in which high blood pressure leads to heart failure. Smokers were also six times more likely to die from a rare illness caused by insufficient blood flow to the intestines."
Public health campaigners reacted to the study by saying that even though many disastrous consequences of smoking are well-documented, it's essential to let the public know that there is yet more bad news.
Bill Novelli, CEO of the American Association for Retired Persons, explained to Big Think that smoking is especially pernicious because its health effects come late in life though most smokers become addicted while they are young and feeling indestructible. Novelli advocates for greater federal oversight:
"Tobacco is the only product, which, if you use as directed, it kills you. And of course 80% of all those who become addicted to tobacco become addicted as kids. And so we have ... a national obligation to protect our children. And that’s why the line should be sharper for tobacco than for other products. That’s why we need FDA oversight over tobacco. We need taxes on top of tobacco. We need public education campaigns. And we need to really rein in the tobacco industry."
Other observations made by the study confirm that quitting is always a worthwhile goal: the longer one smokes, the worse the health effects become, and the sooner one quits, the more quickly the body will begin to recover. Still, there is little to be done presently until someone is determined to quit on their own initiative.
Because the poor and undereducated are more likely to smoke, public health professionals recommend a more robust anti-smoking campaign for those who depend on Medicaid. From the government's perspective, this would also constitute a substantial preventative care measure, potentially saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
Read more at The New York Times.
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