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Excellent Reasons to Quit Smoking
You know the facts as you reach for your
cigarettes. Perhaps you contemplate them for a moment as you light up.
Heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema ... Still, you inhale deeply. All
401 poisons and 43 cancer-causing chemicals.
If the threat of death won't convince you, maybe something else can prompt you to quit
smoking: good old-fashioned vanity. In addition to cutting your lifespan, when you smoke,
you also hurt one of the most important things we use to judge each other -- our
appearance. Here are 10 good reasons to give up the habit. They might not kill you, but
they sure don't help your looks.
Forget the beautiful
babes who peer from the advertising pages of fashion magazines, tailor-made cigarettes
between their fingers. The first thing smoking will not do is give you the eyes and lips
of a model. Crows feet and wrinkled cheeks. Vertical lines around your mouth. That's the
Fact: Smoking reduces the flow of oxygen
and nutrients to skin cells by shrinking blood vessels. Say hello to premature wrinkling
that is largely irreversible (even if you have the cash and can handle the pain of
cosmetic surgery). This one may worry women more than men, but read on.
No. 2: Impotence:
"Oh, God no! Really? Now that's
bad!" says Donovan Hipke, a 26-year-old Web developer in Seattle. He's reacting to
the news that if he doesn't defeat his three-year pack-a-day habit, something very near
and dear to him may stop working in the future -- not good news for men or women.
Fact: Smoking reduces the blood flow necessary to attain an erection. As many as one in
two American men older than 40 have experienced impotence to some degree. Smoking is
believed to be one of the main physical causes of erectile dysfunction.
"If smoking ruins your sex life, it seems like a terrible trade-off," says Ryan
Harper, a 22-year-old non-smoker who lives in northern California. "How cool can it
be to not perform in bed?"
No. 3: Stained
teeth, bad breath:
made for kissing, right? But what if the mouth behind them is filled with stained teeth
and bad breath? "As smoking becomes more and more uncommon, people are increasingly
sensitive to these things and react negatively to them," says American Lung
Association spokesman Edwin Fisher, PhD.
Fact: Particles from cigarette smoke stain teeth brown and yellow, and they trap
odor-producing bacteria in your mouth. Gum disease and tooth loss also are common in
smokers. Not attractive.
Perhaps additional mouth-related consequences will persuade you to quit the habit.
Consider vocal-cord growths and cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus are all
possibilities if you smoke.
No. 4: You -- and your general vicinity -- stink:
Yes, you really, really
do. Maybe you're so used to smoking that you can't tell. Maybe your nasal passages are so
damaged that your nose doesn't work properly anyway. But ask a non-smoking friend for an
honest answer about the way you, your car, and your home smell. The ugly answer: They all
stink. Almost as much as the ashtray you use to stub out your butts.
Fact: Cigarette smoke has an unpleasant odor that lingers on everything from skin and hair
to clothing and curtains. The scent does not turn on friends and lovers.
No. 5: Brittle
Risk factors for the
crippling condition of osteoporosis are well-known these days: There is being female,
white or Asian, inactive, and past menopause. Then there is having a small frame, calcium
deficiency, and genetic predisposition. They all are contributors to low bone-mineral
density. And so is smoking.
Numerous studies link smoking and osteoporosis in both women and men. It may be because
smoking affects the production of estrogen and other hormones necessary for healthy bones.
Fact: A 1997 study that looked at 4,000 hip fractures in elderly women concluded that one
out of every eight fractures was due to smoking-related bone loss. Once lost, bone density
cannot be fully recovered.
Let's get philosophical
for a moment: Why do you smoke?
Fisher of the American Lung Association believes there's a good chance you're stressed or
depressed. "People who are unemployed or going through a divorce often smoke,"
he says, adding that even if you're not distressed, smoking makes you look like you are.
Fact: The connection between smoking and depression has been well established. Smoking may
make you appear more troubled than cool. And it can't take the place of a good therapist.
No. 7: Crummy
Children emulate adults.
Every time you light up, you tell kids around you that smoking is OK.
Ryan Harper attributes his abstinence to his parents. "My parents are excellent role
models for me," he says. "They don't drink or smoke." And neither does he.
Fact: Every day, an estimated 3,000 children in the U.S. become addicted to cigarette
smoking. If they keep smoking, 1,000 of them eventually will die from diseases connected
to their addiction.
Anti-tobacco organizations claim cigarette companies deliberately target children in their
advertising campaigns. If you smoke, you're a walking billboard for these companies. And
you are paying them.
No. 8: Fire!:
Fact: Fires caused by
lighted tobacco products are the leading cause of fire deaths in the U.S. During the
1980s, smoking materials started more than 200,000 fires every year and killed more than
1,000 people, while injuring 3,000 more and causing more than $300 million in property
If death by fire doesn't impress you, surely you can recall at least one time your
cigarette burned a hole in your precious silk suit or cashmere sweater. It may be the dawn
of a new millennium, but crispy clothing is not a suave fashion statement yet.
No. 9: Poor
Drooling, paralysis, loss
of speech ... There's nothing pretty about becoming the victim of a stroke.
Fact: Red blood cells are designed to carry oxygen throughout the body. In smokers, oxygen
molecules are displaced by the components of cigarette smoke, blocking the transfer of
If you've convinced yourself that stroke is an extreme or unlikely consequence of your
habit, there's always premature heart disease to slow you down. If you're lucky, perhaps
you'll only experience some of the inconveniences of poor circulation, like painful pins
and needles or cold hands and feet.
No. 10: You look
Given the prevalence of
smoking education in our culture, it could be said that smokers must have a lack of oxygen
to the brain. In fact, as you read above, they do.
But no matter how a smoker justifies his or her addiction, this is the simple,
indisputable truth: Just like the slogan says, smoking kills.
It makes the habit look kind of silly overall, doesn't it?
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Updated May 2020