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Ahh, Factoids, Dr. Carr's favorite past time.
Smoked GumsSmoking is a major cause of tooth loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Periodontal disease (deterioration of the gums) is responsible for most of the tooth loss in older persons and smoking is responsible for the majority of periodontal disease, says a report published in the Journal of Periodontology.10 Smokers are affected by gum disease four times as often as nonsmokers. It is thought that smoking decreases blood flow and nutrition to the gum tissues, as well as lowering resistance to bacteria growth. 10. Journal of Periodontology, May 2000.
Smoking and Behavioral ProblemsAnother study correlating pre-natal smoking with behavioral problems in offspring has been published, this time in the AMA's Archives of General Psychiatry.3 "Conduct disorder," a diagnosis designating serious antisocial behavior, is more than four times as common in boys whose mothers smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day during pregnancy. The six year study involved 177 pre-teenage boys. 3. Archives of General Psychiatry, July 1997.
Smokers More Likely to be OverweightAustrian researchers are reporting evidence that contradicts popular belief that smoking helps control obesity. In their study, they found that smokers were more likely to be overweight than nonsmokers. Smokers are also, as a group, less interested in eating healthy meals and are more inclined to subsist on junk foods. The higher the nicotine intake, researchers say, the less likely a person is to practice good nutrition.5 5. Reuter, reporting on the work of Dr. Rudolph Schoberberger of the University of Vienna, September 23, 1997.
Passive Smoking StatsTwo papers published in the British Medical Journal offer compelling evidence that secondhand smoke is a real health threat to live-in companions of smokers.9 Both are an analysis of a number of published studies on the subject. One concludes that non-smokers increase their risk of heart disease by 30 percent if they live with a smoker. The other work says that lung cancer rates increase a similar amount, and finds a correlation to the number of cigarettes smoked in the household and the length of time living with the smoker. 9. BMJ, October 18, 1997.
Smoking Makes You Age FasterA study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that elderly women who smoke have less strength, balance, and agility than their non-smoking counterparts. The study, done on over 9,000 women, suggests that smokers might feel physically older because of their habit. Some activities evaluated were walking, standing up from a seated position, grasping, and climbing stairs. Also compared were the effects of chronic alcohol consumption on similar activities. Surprisingly, and for reasons not yet understood, moderate drinkers outperformed nondrinkers in almost all the activities.
Smoking and SIDSAnother study reports on smoking's contribution to sudden infant death syndrome. Not just any ordinary increase in risk, according to this work published in the British Medical Journal,3 but a major cause. This government-funded study concludes that 60 percent of SIDS cases are due to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and after delivery. The results "astonished" the researchers, who apparently didn't expect the effect to be quite so dramatic. Previous studies have linked smoking to miscarriages and birth defects as well. 3. BMJ, July 27, 1996.
Smoking and Drug Use LinkedA Florida study has found that teenagers who smoke are also much more likely to be involved in illegal drug and alcohol usage. The survey of 22,000 middle and high school students found that smokers are eight times more likely to be using cocaine; six times more likely to smoke marijuana; and drink alcohol three times as often as non-smokers. It is estimated that more than 85,000 children and adolescents in Florida are candidates for drug or alcohol treatment programs.8
War on Cancer: a Qualified FailureA University of Chicago researcher who follows cancer trends says that research has failed to make any significant progress in cancer treatment. This study, which examined cancer mortality from 1970 through 1994, comes to a similar conclusion as an earlier one by the same author. In 1986, Dr. John Bailar concluded that "some 35 years of intense effort focused largely on improving treatment must be judged a qualified failure." Bailar says his latest study is just as disheartening. He urges that efforts be redirected into prevention. Even though certain types of cancers have declined somewhat in recent years, he says treatment has little to do with the improvement. Instead, decreases in smoking and other factors seem to have more of an effect.14 14. New England Journal of Medicine, May 19, 1997
Other "Benefits" of Smoking: Less Hair and More GrayAs if cigarette smoke wasn't already bad enough, a researcher at the Leigh Infirmary in Lancashire, England, reports that it will also turn your hair gray -- if you get to keep any hair at all. He found a significant increase in hair loss and graying among smokers, reporting that they are twice as likely to lose your hair or be gray at a certain age. Combine this with previous research that indicates that smoking gives you wrinkles, perhaps vanity could be a good motivation to kick the habit.2 2. British Medical Journal, December 21, 1996.
Smoking and Hip FracturesA report in the British Medical Journal4 contends that in the elderly one of every eight hip fractures is attributable to metabolic changes caused by cigarette smoking. This study of over 11,000 people finds that smoking speeds age-related bone loss, which in turn makes fractures much more likely. In women nearing the age of 90, smoking increases their risk of a hip fracture from 22 percent (for a non-smoker) to 37 percent. 4. BMJ, October 4, 1997.
Die SoonerYou may already have suspected this, but a British study reinforces the argument that tobacco use shortens life. This 15-year study released by the British Heart Association was done on 7,735 men by London's Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine. At age 73, 78 percent of men who had never smoked were still surviving. But only 42 percent of men who started smoking before they were 20 years old lived to see that age.8 8. Reuter, October 11, 1996.
Smoking and SightTwo long-term studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association12 find an increased risk of vision loss in smokers as they age. The research projects examined smoking physicians and nurses over about a 12 year period. Macular degeneration was found more than twice as often in the smoking group. Smokers who had quit a number of years earlier were at nearly the same risk level. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in persons 65 years and older in the United States. 12. JAMA, October 9, 1996.
Nicotine up Your NoseA new gimmick is about to be marketed to smoking addicts: the nicotine nose spray. When the craving strikes, you can squirt the equivalent of one milligram of nicotine into your nose to get relief. Unfortunately, FDA officials warn that the spray itself is likely to be addictive. One participant in the three month efficacy study was found to be plotting ways to obtain a year's supply of the stuff. FDA guidelines specify that it should be used no longer than six months.1 1. Associated Press, March 25, 1996.
Smoking and Cervical DysplasiaA study of 82 smokers finds that cessation of the habit can improve pap smear results. Researchers conducted pap smears at the beginning of the study, and compared them at a later time when a number of the subjects had cut back on their habit. They found that 80 percent of the women who had quit or greatly reduced their consumption of cigarettes showed improved scores. The study is reported in The Lancet.7 7. The Lancet, April 6, 1996.
Smoking and Emotional ProblemsNew research from a five-year study in Michigan reports a strong correlation between smoking and depression. Persons who smoked every day were nearly twice as likely to suffer major episodes of depression when compared to occasional smokers. Those who were depressed at the onset of the study were also three times more likely by the end of the study to be smoking daily. Researchers have no explanation for these statistics, or even a major hypothesis of which problem may lead to the other.1 1. Archives of General Psychiatry, February 1998.
Smoking and Ear InfectionsAnother study has linked second-hand smoke to ear infections in children. A report in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine2 details a Canadian study of the effects of parental smoking on 625 first-graders. Compared to children who lived in smoke-free homes, those residing with two smoking parents were 85% more likely to suffer from frequent ear infections. 2. APAM, February 1998.
Smoking BabiesHong Kong researchers report that babies who live in households with two or more smokers are 30 percent more likely to be hospitalized than those from smoke-free homes. The study looked at 8,300 babies born in 1997, for the first 18 months of their lives. The hospitalizations were typically for respiratory problems. The authors of the study estimate that health costs due to smoking during the first year amount to about 10 percent of all health care costs for this age group.7 For households with only one smoker, the hospitalization rate was about seven percent higher than normal. 7. Reuters, March 7, 2002.
Smoking for Breast CancerA new study sponsored by the World Health Organization concludes that cigarette smoking may decrease the risk of breast cancer in certain women. The study1 examined women who were more at risk for the disease because of a genetic weakness and found that the smokers developed breast cancer at half the rate of non-smokers. Researchers were both "surprised and dismayed"2 with the results. They worry that tobacco companies will try to exploit these findings, presumably before some kind of tobacco-derived drug can be developed. 1. Published in May's Journal of the American Cancer Society. 2. "Surprise finding ..smoking may prevent breast cancer." Reuter, May 19, 1998.
Nicotine Withdrawal RisksBritish doctors have discovered another symptom of nicotine withdrawal: an increase in accidents at work. Upon examining workplace safety records, they discovered that on National "No Smoking Day," there was a significant increase in such accidents. Irritability and lack of concentration are thought to be the most likely contributors.12 12. Nature, July 1998, reporting on the work of Andrew Waters, et al.
Smoking Decreases FertilityA study from the University of California School of Public Health finds that compared to non-smokers, women who smoke one to nine cigarettes per day take twice as long to become pregnant after stopping contraceptives. The study was done on over 1,300 first-time mothers.8
Birth Defect Associated with SmokingAccording to a recently published John Hopkins University study, pregnant women can trigger formation of a cleft palate in their offspring by smoking, perhaps even before they know they are pregnant. This study, done on 467 children from Maryland, found a high incidence of the birth defect among children of mothers who smoked during early pregnancy.9
Wounds Heal Faster without NicotineA study at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston concludes that when a patient stops smoking before surgery, the surgical wounds heal faster and more completely. One of nicotine's actions is to restrict the blood flow around healing sites. The study subjects wore a nicotine patch to obtain a controlled dosage.11
Smoking Blamed for 7.5% of MiscarriagesIn a "meta-analysis" of about 100 studies of the effects of smoking,12 researchers estimate that 7.5 percent of all miscarriages are due to tobacco usage. A meta-analysis is an attempt to draw general conclusions by analyzing data and outcomes of different studies. Other conclusions relating to maternal smoking were: · as many as 26,000 newborns are admitted to intensive care units each year because of smoking-induced low birth weights; · elevated risk of stillbirths and neonatal deaths; · a tripling of the risk of SIDS. It is estimated that somewhere between 18 and 27 percent of pregnant females smoke.
Smoking Risks Include DiabetesThe British Medical Journal reports that smokers are twice as likely to develop adult-onset diabetes. The study performed by the Harvard School of Public Health involved 40,000 men over a six year period.1 The smokers averaged about one pack per day and were otherwise relatively healthy. Moderate drinkers fared much better. It was found that they had a 40 percent less risk of developing diabetes compared to non-drinkers.
Smoking, Sleeping, and SIDSIt appears that cigarette smoke proportionately increases an infant's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A baby in the average smoking household has a doubled risk of SIDS, and the more smoke present, the greater the risk.10 Interestingly, in households where just one person smoked, the risk was much higher if the smoker was the father as opposed to the mother. In that case, the risk was nearly 3.5 times higher than in a non-smoking household. This same study also tracked sleeping position, but this time (unlike other recent studies) no correlation was found. Yet, in the same journal, a report from Tasmania noted the steady decline in SIDS since officials there began persuading parents to put children to sleep on their backs or sides.
Smoking AnxietyTeenagers who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day are five times more likely to suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder and/or agoraphobia, concludes a study by researchers from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. They were also 12 times more likely to have a panic disorder during early adulthood. The researchers say that their data indicate that smoking itself leads to the anxious states, not that the individuals sought relief from anxiety by smoking. The study examined 976 randomly sampled families in upstate New York.5 5. Journal of the American Medical Association, November 8, 2000.
Smoking InjuriesA new study of Army recruits in basic training concludes that smokers are more likely to sustain a variety of exercise-related injuries. The research involved 2,000 men and women and was statistically adjusted for a number of factors that might have skewed the results, such as smokers starting out in poorer physical shape at the onset. The recruits, who were not permitted access to cigarettes during basic training were significantly more likely to suffer from blisters, bruises, sprains and broken bones if they were smokers.1 Other studies have found decreased healing time among smokers, suggesting that these new findings may be due to cumulative microtraumas. 1. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2000
Smoking and Offspring BehaviorResearchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York report that mothers who smoke during pregnancy are far more likely to experience behavioral problems with their offspring. This study of 99 mothers and their two-year-old children found a fourfold increase of rebelliousness, impulsive behavior, and other parental stressors among those that smoked while carrying children. The researchers speculate that smoking influences the structure and function of the nervous system during the early stages of development, possibly by interfering with fetal oxygen supply.1 1. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, April 2000.
Smoking Triggers LDL OxidationA study7 performed at the University of Southern California School of Medicine has found that the low density lipoprotein of smokers oxidizes 40 percent faster than non-smokers, thus accelerating arterial plaque build-up. This seems to be a promising lead in determining the precise mechanism of smoking's effects on the cardiovascular system. Researchers believe that this oxidation accounts for the largest portion of smokers' poor cardiovascular health.
Childhood Respiratory Infections and SmokingA study published in The Lancet12 says that tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis and middle ear infections occur three times more frequently in households where the parents smoke. Researchers measured a urinary by-product of nicotine in samples from children one to five years old for the study, correlating the results to their respiratory health.
Cigarettes and Mental DisordersA Harvard Medical School study10 reports that persons with diagnosable mental illnesses are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes. Extrapolating data from the study of over 4,000 people, the authors suggest that nearly half of all cigarettes smoked in the United States are consumed by people who can be considered mentally ill, using a rather broad definition. The researchers do not know if mental illness makes one susceptible to tobacco addiction, or if smoking leads to mental illness. 10. JAMA, November 22, 2000.
Coffee and CigarettesResearchers looking into the effects of coffee and cigarettes on bladder cancer were intrigued by their findings in a study published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.6 Tabacco and caffeine are thought to increase the likelihood of the disease, with smoking more likely so. However, they found that while smokers who didn't drink coffee were seven times more susceptible than nonsmokers, those that did had only three times the risk. The researchers aren't sure why coffee would offer a protective benefit, but one might hypothesize that the diuretic affect should reduce the relative concentrations of toxins in the bladder. The authors of the study point out that it still makes more sense to quit smoking than to take up drinking coffee as a precaution. The study involved 1,500 volunteers; those drinking two cups of coffee or fewer per week were classified as non-coffee drinkers for the purpose of this study. 6. JECH, December, 2000.
Smoking Aggravates Back PainHeavy smokers who are injured on the job appear to suffer more often with residual back pain, according to a study at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.3 The smokers also seemed to suffer more from leg cramps and pain. This follows one study that showed a near doubling of the healing time needed for fractures in smokers and another that found slower surgical wound healing because of nicotine's constrictive effects on blood vessels.
Lung Cancer and Former SmokersA study of 685 lung cancer patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston13 has gathered some statistics about smoking and that disease. Patients who smoked comprised 41 percent of the group, a statistic which by itself might lead one to believe that smoking has little effect on lung cancer. However, 51 percent of the group were former smokers, leaving only eight percent who never smoked. The average former smoker had quit six years before, though about one-quarter had stopped smoking more than 20 years earlier. While nearly everyone agrees that you can help yourself avoid lung cancer by kicking the habit, this study suggests that the effects of smoking are not as quickly reversed as some might think. Smoking in the United States has decreased from 42 percent in 1965 to 25 percent in 1993. About 25 percent of the population are now former smokers.
The Price of Being FirstChina is the largest tobacco producing and consuming country in the world with about 30 percent of all cigarettes in the world being consumed there. In 1989, tobacco pumped about $3 billion into the Chinese economy and in that country. However, the Chinese Academy for Preventive Medicine reports that direct economic losses due to smoking were more, weighing in at $3.3 billion. Essentially, the Chinese spent more on treating tobacco related health conditions that they made in sales.
Gene Mutations Associated With SmokingA John Hopkins University study published in the March 16, 1995 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has found a high incidence of mutation in the genetic material of smokers. The gene p53, which appears to protect the body from some types of cancer, was mutated twice as often in smokers as non-smokers. Persons who both smoked and used alcohol increased their risk to three times that of the control group.
Smoking InfectionsAside from the long-term effects of cigarette smoking, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smokers stand a much higher risk of contracting acute life-threatening infections such as pneumonia or meningitis. The effect seems to relate directly to the amount of tobacco usage. Smokers were four times as likely to come down with pneumonia, but those who smoked 25 or more cigarettes each day had 5.5 times the risk. Those who kicked the habit gradually gained a normal resistance to infection in about 10 years.8 8. NEJM, March 9, 2000.
Smoking MomsIf you're a mother who doesn't want her children to fall into the smoking habit trap, consider this. Research shows that if you smoke, your preschoolers are six times more likely to already be planning to smoke when they grow up. Researchers interviewed 504 preschoolers in upstate New York and note that 70 percent said they expected to smoke when they were older. The largest percentage of these had mothers who smoked. A father who lights up also had an impact, but only to half the extent.11 11. Reported by Dr. Christine Williams of the Child Health Center at the American Health Foundation, Valhalla, N.Y., to the American Heart Association meeting in Dallas, November 10, 1998.
Work to Quit SmokingA new study from Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island reports that exercise may be a helpful adjunct to people trying to quit smoking. Researchers followed 281 females in a 12-week "stop smoking" program. About half the women participated in a supervised, vigorous workout program three days each week. The exercisers were nearly twice as successful in kicking the habit as those that did not. This was still the case when a follow up was done a year later. More good news: women from the exercise group gained only about half as much weight after quitting.17 17. Archives of Internal Medicine, June 13, 1999.
Another Effect of SmokingNew research suggests that smoking is related to yet another undesirable condition: lessened sexual satisfaction. A survey of nearly 300 men between the ages of 24 and 36 found that smokers experienced sex only about half as frequently as non-smokers. Not only was quantity reduced among smokers, but also quality: on a scale of one to 10, smokers rated their enjoyment a "5" compared to the non-smokers' "9."10 The study does not, however, definitively answer the question of whether smoking is the cause or merely a type of compensatory behavior. 10. Panayiotis Zavos of the American Institute of Andrology, Lexington, KY, reported by United Press, September, 1999.
WaterA new study of close to 48,000 male health professionals suggests that bladder cancer is influenced by fluid intake.7 A higher fluid intake, especially of water, seems to decrease the risk in a somewhat proportional manner. The study concludes that, on average, each glass of water (per day) decreases the risk of bladder cancer by seven percent. It is thought that diluted urine decreases the bladder wall irritation caused by chemicals being held there. Researchers did not find any increased risk of bladder cancer attributable to coffee or alcohol consumption. Smoking was a factor, nearly quadrupling the risk. Fruit juices, for some as-yet unknown reason, seemed to increase the risk very slightly. 7. Michaud D, Spiegelman D, Clinton S, et al. Fluid intake and the risk of bladder cancer in men. N Engl J Med 1999;340:1390-7.
Early SmokingA new study16 concludes that there is an amount of DNA damage attributable to smoking that never gets repaired, even after the habit is kicked. The exact amount of this damage does not seem to depend on how often a person lights up or for how many years, but at what age the smoking started. Smokers who had started by age 15 showed twice the DNA damage as those who began in their 20s. One researcher commented, "There is something uniquely bad about starting young."17 Other studies have shown that smoke in developing lungs stunts their growth, increases breathing problems, and is more addictive.18 16. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 1999. 17. John K. Wiencke, genetics expert at the University of California, San Francisco. 18. Associated Press, April 6, 1999