Smoking has been proven to be bad for health, causing a string of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung illness, and cancer. In the 2020 Surgeon General report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on tobacco, people are discouraged from smoking to live a healthier life but are also advised not to resort to vaping.
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Three decades after the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking cessation, the Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams, has released a new report that provides updated evidence on the benefits of smoking cessation.
Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the country, and it harms nearly every organ, costing billions of dollars in direct medical costs every year.
Though there has been considerable progress to reduce cigarette smoking since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964, 13.7 percent of people or nearly 34.2 million people were still smoking in 2018. In the report, they found that more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are smoking cigarettes.
In 2017, a majority of smokers want to quit completely. But, one of the major reasons why people find it hard to quit smoking is nicotine, a drug naturally found in tobacco, which is highly addictive.
In a press conference, the Surgeon General, Dr. Adams, reiterated the important role of doctors in helping patients quit.
“Forty percent of smokers who see a health provider each year isn't advised by those health providers to quit," Adams said.
Doctors should advise patients about quitting smoking, particularly for health reasons. Smoking cessation reduces the risk of premature death and can add about a decade to one’s life expectancy. It also helps reduce the likelihood of experiencing negative health effects, such as cardiovascular disease, reproductive health outcomes, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD), and some types of cancer.
“We know more about the science of quitting than ever before. As a nation, we can and must do more to ensure that evidence-based cessation treatments are reaching the people that need them," Dr. Adams, said in a statement.
"Today, I'm calling on healthcare professionals, health systems, employers, insurers, public health professionals, and policymakers to take action to put an end to the staggering—and completely preventable—human and financial tolls that smoking takes on our country,” he added.
The era of e-cigarettes
The Surgeon General discouraged people from quitting with e-cigarettes since there’s no adequate proof or evidence that it works.
The Surgeon General encouraged people to focus on what studies have shown about e-cigarettes. Also, there aren’t many studies performed to prove the benefits of e-cigarettes or if they’re effective to help people quit smoking.
There are other approaches coined to help people quit smoking, including FDA-approved medicines and behavioral counseling. These are cost-effective cessation strategies that are safe and proven effective by health experts. The two strategies increase the likelihood of successfully quitting smoking.
The report added that e-cigarettes are continuously changing, taking various forms of products, and are used in many ways. Hence, it’s not easy to make generalizations about their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking based on clinical trials. At present, there is no solid proof or evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes promote smoking cessation.
Health benefits of quitting smoking
Smoking cessation has many health benefits. For one, there is sufficient data or evidence that stopping smoking help reduce the risk of developing cancer, including lung, laryngeal, oral, pancreatic, bladder, colorectal, stomach, kidney, liver, cervical, and blood cancer.
In terms of cardiovascular disease, stopping smoking can help reduce the levels of inflammation and hypercoagulability markers, leading to improving the level of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol in the body.
Aside from that, smoking cessation promotes cardiovascular disease by reducing the development of atherosclerosis, which is a key risk factor of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Moreover, quitting smoking has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Smoking cessation is also beneficial as it reduces the risk of asthma attacks, improves lung function, and promotes reproductive health.
Adams, J. M. (2020). Good for Health, Good for Business: The Business Case for Reducing Tobacco Use. Public Health Reports, 135(1), 3–5. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033354919889631