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Prevalence of Smoking

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:59am

One-third of the world’s adult population are smokers (47% of these are men, 7% are women) and each year, tobacco causes 3.5 million deaths a year, or about 10,000 deaths each day. It is predicted that in 20 years this yearly death rate from tobacco use will be more than 10 million people. This dwarfs other health problems like AIDS or maternal deaths.
{“Global Tobacco Epidemic, according to WHO,” ASH Review, May/June 1999}
An estimated 50 million Americans are smokers (25% of the population). About 20 million smokers try to break the habit every year, with only about a million actually managing to quit. Another million become new smokers annually.
{“Anytime’s a Good Time to Quit Smoking,” Washington Post Health, July 11, 2000}
An estimated 48 million U.S. adults currently smoke: 28% of men and 22% of women. Adult smoking has remained unchanged during the 1990s.
{ABCNEWS.Com, Jan. 2000}
The CDC says smoking among young adults, ages 18 to 24, has been rising for the first time to the level of those 25 to 44. High school rates are even higher. Banning smoking in the workplace and other smoking restrictions are the major reason for decline in people who smoke.
{John Banzhaf, head of ASDH - Action on Smoking, - May 2000}
Over one million smokers of the 50 million are stopping yearly, but one million teenagers are picking up the habit. Presently 10% of the doctors smoke in the U.S. (One fourth of the Japanese doctors smoke.)
Smoking in developing countries is rising by more than 3% a year.
{“Tobacco Deceit,” Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2000}
Effect of Smoking on Life Span
“Action on Smoking and Health” tells us that a 30-year-old smoker can expect to live about 35 more years, whereas a 30-year-old nonsmoker can expect to live 53 more years. The children of a parent or parents who smoke may be at risk from the genetic damage done to the parent before conception (because of their previous smoking), the direct effects to them in the womb, and the passive smoke they are exposed to after they are born.
{“Smokers urged to weigh the ‘facts’ during the ‘Great American Smoke-Out,’ Vital Signs, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia, Nov. 14, 1993, written by June Russell, a member of Smoke-Free Charlottesville}
The amount of life expectancy lost for each pack of cigarettes smoked is 28 minutes, and the years of life expectancy a typical smoker loses is 25 years.
{“Dying to Quit,” 1998 book by Janet Brigham}
Every cigarette a man smokes reduces his life by 11 minutes. Each carton of cigarettes thus represents a day and a half of lost life. Every year a man smokes a pack a day, he shortens his life by almost 2 months.
{University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, April 2000}
There are some 1.1 billion people who smoke on our planet earth. Just less than one-third of all adults in the world smoke regularly. Tobacco deaths will not only occur in old age but will start when smokers are about age 35. Half of those who die from smoking-related causes will die in middle age, each losing about 25 years of life expectancy. More than 95% of the tobacco consumed is in the form of cigarettes. About half of all smokers who undergo lung cancer take up smoking again.
{“Dying to Quit,” a 1998 book by Janet Brigham}
Physiology and Psychology of Smoking
Most smokers perceive the immediate effect of smoking as something positive; a stimulant that makes them seem to feel more alert, clearheaded and able to focus on work. However, the smoker’s perception is mostly an illusion. Take a look at what smoke does to the brain.
Within ten seconds of the first inhalation, nicotine, a potent alkaloid, passes into the bloodstream, transits the barrier that protects the brain from most impurities, and begins to act on brain cells. Nicotine molecules fit like keys into the “nicotinic” receptors on the surface of the brain’s neurons. In fact, nicotine fits the same “keyholes” as one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters (signal chemicals), acetycholine, which results in a rush of stimulation and an increase in the flow of blood to the brain.
After ten puffs have flowed through the lungs, the smoker feels energized and clearheaded, but this is partly due to the fact that this was a period which ended a nicotine depravation, and another is about to happen. Within 30 minutes, the nicotine is reduced and the smoker feels the energy slipping away. A second cigarette is lit, and there is another surge of adrenaline, but now there is a feeling of one of the paradoxes of smoking, that at one dose it can stimulate, at another soothe. The muscles throughout your body starts to relax, and your pain threshold rises.
Another 30 minutes pass and the attention of the smoker increasingly drifts away from work and toward the nearby pack of cigarettes. Nicotine prompts brain cells to grow many more nicotinic receptors which allow the brain to function normally despite an unnatural amount of acetylcholine-like chemical acting on it, so the smoker feels normal when nicotine floods the neurons and abnormal when it doesn't. “You might say smokers live near the edge of a cliff,” says Jack Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore. “Most are never more than a few hours away from the start of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.”
The American Psychiatric Association classifies smoking withdrawal as a “nicotine-induced organic mental disorder,” and several studies have compared active smokers with ‘deprived’ smokers (those suffering nicotine withdrawal) on their ability to perform simple skill tests. These are often cited (and many were funded) by the tobacco industry as evidence that tobacco enhances alertness and performance. What they really show is that nicotine withdrawal causes dramatic mental dysfunction. Research revealed that a smoker might perform adequately at many jobs until the job gets complicated: a smoker could drive a car satisfactorily as long as everything was routine, but if a tire blew out at high speed he might not handle the job as well as a nonsmoker.
{“How Cigarettes Cloud the Brain,” Reader’s Digest, March 1995}
In 1980, tobacco dependence was listed as a mental disorder in the official diagnostic reference for the American Psychiatric Association. In 1991, the Psychiatric Association reported that smokers have a higher lifetime frequency of substance abuse, severe depression and anxiety disorders involving aggression and antisocial behavior.

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