The dangers of smoking tobacco

The dangers of smoking tobacco

by Ravi Ramachandran, M.D.

We all know that smoking is bad for us.  We tell our loved ones and patients in the office to kick the habit before it kicks them.  Recently the New England Journal of Medicine published a quality article on the hazards of smoking.  The lead author Dr. Jha had some interesting points to illustrate in the article.  Here are the key points of the article as it relates to smoking.

  1. Large database.  Dr. Jha looked at 216,917 smoking histories between 1997-2004.  These patients who were surveyed through 2006 and were followed by the National Death Index.  Current and former smokers were then compared with people who never smoked.  The authors of the paper then determined risks of death and the causes of death in the different groups.
  2. Death rate was three times more in smokers as compared to nonsmokers.  The paper showed if you are a smoker you are 3 times more likely to die.  No surprise but this quantifies the risk of death from smoking for people.
  3. Cause of deaths in smokers were wide and varied.  Smoking causes changes in tissues in a negative manner that can wreak havoc in the body.  In Dr. Jha’s paper, the higher risk of death was due to cancer, stroke, heart attack and lung disease.  It seems that nearly every organ in the body is impacted negatively and this is borne out in this paper.
  4. Life expectancy was shortened by more than 10 years amount current smokers.  If you smoke, you can expect, based on this study, 10 years of your life span.  If you quit smoking earlier in life you get some of those years back.  This statistic illustrates the body’s ability to repair some of the damage associated with smoking.
  5. Stop smoking before 40 years of age.  In Dr. Jha’s paper, if one quits smoking before 40 years of age, there is a 90% reduction in the risk of death compared with active smokers.  The authors were quick to point out that it doesn’t mean you can smoke until 40 and be alright.  They pointed out that the remaining risk in someone’s life is 20% for early death in a former smoker compared with a nonsmoker.

This paper was well written and illustrated the obvious.  Smoking is bad for you and those around you.  From an orthopedic standpoint, it destroys the musculoskeletal system and acceleratesdegenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.  Smoking cessation requires hard work and a multidisciplinary approach including rethinking habits.  I have included a link from the Heart Foundation on smoking cessation. 

Ravi Ramachandran M.D. - Spine Surgeon in Sacramento, CA