In the film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, everyone smoked. It was considered glamourous and sexy, even mysterious. Who can imagine Rita Hayworth as "Gilda" without her iconic cigarette holder? Or Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in the final scene of "Now Voyager" where Paul Henreid says, "Shall we just have a cigarette on it?" They each light a cigarette and Bette Davis says, "Let's don't ask for the moon, we have the stars." Does it even get any more romantic than that? Everyone smoked, everyone looked glamorous, and everyone wanted to emulate them. I remember my parents and all their friends smoked. My mother had a gold cigarette case that she carried everywhere with her and a gold cigarette holder. I thought she looked so beautiful and sophisticated, and I wanted to be just like her and her friends when I grew up. Smoking was part of being an adult, and it seemed that everyone who smoked was so much more witty and urbane.
Today we know the truth about smoking. Humphrey Bogart, a heavy smoker, died of cancer of the esophagus at the age of 57. We know now that smoking is not glamorous or sophisticated or even sexy. Smokers smell bad and they have raspy coughs. Smoking causes wrinkles, especially around the mouth. The smoke from a smoldering cigarette often contains higher concentrations of the toxins found in cigarette smoke than exhaled smoke does. There is enough nicotine in four or five cigarettes to kill an average adult if ingested whole. Cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure, which is a known cause of acute myeloid leukemia. Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemical compounds, 11 of which are known to be Group 1 carcinogens. Every eight seconds, a human life is lost to tobacco use somewhere in the world -- in total, more than motor vehicle accidents, drunk driving, homicides, AIDS, illegal drugs and fires -- daily. Still sound glamorous and sexy?
If this sounds like a lecture, it's because it is. A friend of mine died a few days ago from lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking. I don't want that to happen to you. I like you and I want to keep you around for a long time yet. The good news is, here is what you can expect if you are a smoker and you quit today.
In 20 minutes:
• Blood pressure drops to normal, pulse rate drops to normal, body temperature of hands and feet increases to normal.
In 8 hours:
• Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal; oxygen level in blood increases to normal.
In 24 hours:
• Chance of heart attack decreases.
In 48 hours:
• Nerve endings start regrowing, ability to smell and taste is enhanced.
In 2 weeks to 3 months:
• Circulation improves, walking becomes easier, lung function increases up to 30%.
In 1 to 9 months:
• Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease; cilia regrow in lungs, increasing ability to clean the lungs, and reduce infection; body's overall energy increases.
In 1 year:
• Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
In 5 years:
• Lung cancer death rate for average smoker decreases by almost half; stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
In 10 years:
• Lung cancer death rate similar to that of nonsmokers, precancerous cells are replaced; risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.
In 15 years:
• Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.