Living Well

Breathing easier means putting the cigarettes down for good

Breathing easier means putting the cigarettes down for good

Do you know what is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States? It’s smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 million Americans can attribute having at least one disease due to cigarette smoking. One of the most important things you can do to improve your health is to stop smoking, and while it’s not an easy process for some, there are ways of getting through.

Start getting healthier by stopping a bad habit

The third Thursday of November is known as the Great American Smokeout, a day-long event that challenges people to stop using tobacco and helps people learn about ways to achieve their goals and stay tobacco-free.

Smoking used to be the ‘in’ thing; according to the American Cancer Society, 42 percent of the population smoked in 1965. Today, that number is down to 14 percent, but sadly, not in Louisiana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2019, nearly 30 percent of high school students reported using some tobacco product, be it cigarettes or e-cigarettes. The adult population in the state using tobacco products isn’t’ much better, with almost 22 percent of adults reportedly smoking cigarettes, and the human and the economic toll due to this habit is high. Every year, more than 7000 adults in Louisiana die due to a smoking-related illness with nearly two billion dollars spent on healthcare costs.

Even knowing that a lot of people still don’t understand the impacts of smoking on the body, but they are huge. For instance, smoking:

  • Compromises your immune system causing a greater likelihood of auto-immune diseases, like Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Impacts the bones increasing the chance of breaks or osteoporosis
  • Damages the heart and lungs decreasing the ability to function properly
  • Increases the risk for disease of the eyes, including cataracts or optic nerve damage
  • Greatly increases your chances of cancer as dozens of chemicals in tobacco are known as cancer-causing agents

Some damage you do to your body when you smoke can be reversed or considerably slowed if you quit smoking and remain tobacco-free. The first thing you must do, though, is stop, and the Great American Smokeout can be the day to take that first step.

Ways to help kick the habit

Like many things, smoking is addictive mainly due to nicotine, one of the main chemicals in tobacco. Being able to quit smoking is a challenge, but it can be done, and there are a number of steps you can take to start the process of stopping.

  • Pick a “quit date” and stick to it: within the next couple of weeks, pick a date you want to begin the process of quitting and mark it on your calendar
  • Prior to that date, start cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke to begin easing into a non-smoking transition
  • Look at nicotine replacement products to take the place of a cigarette
  • Find support in family and friends who will not tempt you to back off your goal

For some, a more structured program may be needed, and that’s where University Medical Center New Orleans can help through its’ Tobacco Cessation program. This multi-disciplinary program offers free or low-cost, evidence-based tobacco treatment services to all University Medical Center patients, employees, and the communities they serve. Benefits include:

  • Cessation medication
  • Group behavioral counseling
  • Quit Line telephone counseling

If you have any additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Lucretia Young via phone 504.702.5178 or email lyoun2@lsuhsc.edu

Additional Resources:

  • American Lung Association helpline (800-548-8252)
  • National Cancer Institute helpline: 1–877–44U–QUIT (1–877–448–7848)

Dr. Kyle Happel is an LSU pulmonary and critical care physician at University Medical Center New Orleans. He is currently the Principal Investigator for the American Lung Association's Asthma Clinical Research Center (ACRC) at LSUHSC.