OK to be a quitter today

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Know how long it takes to benefit from quitting smoking?

Twenty minutes.

According to the American Cancer Society, in that amount of time your blood pressure and heart rate drop.

In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood is back to normal.

Within weeks or months your circulation and lung function improve.

In a year, you've cut your risk of heart disease in half.

But if you want one more reason for you or a loved one to quit smoking today, on the annual Great American Smokeout, here it is: They have scientific evidence you'll be happier.

The Harvard Study of Human Development, which was actually three studies of Harvard graduates, women, and inner-city men over a six-decade period, ultimately lumped the people into three categories: the happy well, the sad sick and the dead.

What put people into the "happy well" group? Was it education? Income level? A happy childhood?

Nope. As recounted by authors Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns in The Coming Generational Storm, the two biggest predictors of being happy and well were not smoking and not abusing alcohol.

Smoking is also one of the biggest influences on the country's life expectancy - which, according to the World Health Organization, is a sad 24th in the world when adjusted to also account for years of bad health.

We're ahead of Cuba - but Canada is ahead of us by a larger margin.

"Whether it is lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or circulatory and heart problems," write Kotlikoff and Burns, "much of the disability and eventual death that many Americans suffer can be traced directly to smoking."

Kotlikoff and Burns note that historically, the best way to increase life expectancy in America was through public health projects (water, sewer, etc.). "Today, the main levers on health and longevity are directly related to personal choices."

But those personal choices have very public consequences. If the effect of smoking on disability and life expectancy - and even happiness - is anywhere near what they say, there are profound implications for our nation's fiscal future. The country's Medicare and Medicaid programs are on track to be overwhelmed by an aging, health-care-needy population. And our personal choices seem destined to see to it.

What happens if such sources dry up? Won't people more or less be on their own?

Given the overall financial state of the country, it's probably a good idea to take many matters into your own hands anyway. Young people, for instance, may have good reason to believe that Social Security won't be much good to them in their old age. They should be saving for retirement now.

Your health is certainly one thing you can take into your own hands. One of the best things you can do is to stop smoking.

That should be evident enough from all the information above. But consider, too, the amazing story of Patrick Reynolds.

A member of the famous R.J. Reynolds tobacco family, Patrick Reynolds today is a leading anti-smoking crusader - in town today to help University Hospital kick off its tobacco-free campus initiative.

"Someone in our family is on the right side, for a change," he says.

On your side, as it turns out.

Comments (9) Add comment
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HTN007 11/20/08 - 04:22 am
So, here is a challenge for

So, here is a challenge for the AC......join me in my effort to extend healthcare benefits to the 50 million uninsured working poor via a federal tax on cigarettes that extends medicaid coverage to them. Be part of Patrick Reynold's win-win-win cigarette tax strategy....stopping teen smoking(win #1), funding healthcare via increased revenues(win #2) and raising the price of cigarettes to the point that they are essentially eliminated as the number one problem driving Medicare into bankruptcy(win #3). Don't forget, the reason Canada is ahead of us is their cigarette tax.

PTHS225 11/20/08 - 05:19 am
Nice screen name for an

Nice screen name for an anti-smoking comment

shivas 11/20/08 - 07:57 am
I smoked from 21 years of age

I smoked from 21 years of age in college to about 38-39. On Thanksgiving Day I will run the Half-Marathon. When you quit, you must get involved in some alternative healthy lifestyle. Setting a long-term health or excercise goal can be a great motivator in staying free from tobacco. I set one every year, and it helps me to stay focused.

Bizarro 11/20/08 - 08:57 am
What would vascular surgeons

What would vascular surgeons do without smokers-that's where the majority of their work comes from. We don't won't to have to bail out these surgeons do we. Don't discourage smokers because you are putting surgeons out of work-just like closing them auto factories. Further it helps thin the population and rids the population of individuals with addictive or risk taking personalities. What were yall thinking. Don't over estimate the value of good health because we are all going to die anyways. LOL.

patriciathomas 11/20/08 - 09:04 am
Who knew that not dumping

Who knew that not dumping massive amounts of poison into your blood stream (via the lungs) would make you feel better and be happier? Another benefit that isn't mentioned is that your car, clothes, breath and house will smell a LOT better. Improve your life and money use, quit smoking.

Dan White 11/20/08 - 01:04 pm
Don't worry AC, Obama will

Don't worry AC, Obama will tax the cigarette industry out of buisness. And, he will put a $10 tax on each cigar and force me to quit my after dinner brandy and cigar.

jack 11/20/08 - 04:27 pm
I quit about 12 years ago

I quit about 12 years ago with hypnosis. Never had any withdrawal problems and just think they stink like hell. Ya' don't realize how much you stink until you quit.

soldout 11/21/08 - 09:48 am
Another reason we are

Another reason we are dropping on life expectancy is the heavy use of drugs. Some studies show prescription drugs may be the third leading cause of death. One study shows that the more you go to the doctor and the more physical examines you have the shorter your life expectancy. The body is always in the process of fixing itself and you don't want to interfer with that process with a medication.

disssman 11/21/08 - 10:47 am
I have often wondered, with

I have often wondered, with the amazing medications to prevent smoking, why aren't they covered under Medicare? Obviously the expense of a patch is nothing compared to surgery for smoking related illnesses. Again, if it so bad to smoke whay don't they provide treatment, using the tobacco funds, before it becomes a major cost. And speaking of funds, why aren't these funds used to help people quit, and believe me a TV commercial isn't working?

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