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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.

No. 1: Facial wrinkles:

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 true picture.

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:

Lips are 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 bones:

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.

No. 6: Depression:

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 role model:

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 damage.

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 circulation:

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 life-giving oxygen.

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 stupid:

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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