Monday, July 13, 2015

Tobacco Cessation: Why Quit?

On Aug. 1, 2015, the University of South Alabama and USA Health System will become tobacco-free campuses. As part of this transition, the university will offer assistance to employees and students who wish to stop using tobacco products, including smokeless and e-cigarettes, through several tobacco cessation programs. This article is the first of a four-part series about tobacco cessation.

Smoking can have severe affects on all aspects of a person’s life and those around them. According to Dr. Ehab Molokhia, associate professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine and a family practitioner with USA Physicians Group, cigarettes are a major contributor to premature deaths in Alabama and across the United States. It is estimated that tobacco use results in nearly 440,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. On average, smokers die about 14 years earlier than non-smokers.

Cigarettes contain a variety of harmful substances that are known to be toxic to the human body including formaldehyde, a chemical used to preserve dead animals.  Nicotine, the drug that makes smoking addictive, significantly raises the risk for heart attacks and strokes, especially in patients who have medical conditions such as diabetes.

A recent smoking trend in today’s culture is e-cigarettes. Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they still share many of the same harmful chemicals with conventional cigarettes. Many people believe that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than traditional tobacco products. However, there are no long-term studies to prove that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative.

Tobacco is a known carcinogen that can also harm a developing fetus. Pregnant women who quit smoking before pregnancy or in early pregnancy significantly reduce the risk of adverse outcomes. The use of tobacco during pregnancy can result in preterm birth, low birth rate and infant mortality.

Dr. Molokhia said quitting tobacco is difficult for many due to the addictive nature of nicotine. “However, with the help of a primary care physician, there are many interventions that have shown to be successful in assisting patients towards cessation,” Dr. Molokhia said. “These methods include counseling, proper planning and the use of prescription medications.”

Smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco, is also associated with many harmful side effects. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smokeless tobacco products contain cancer-causing chemicals that can lead to nicotine addiction; cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas; and mouth diseases. Smokeless tobacco comes with many health risks and is not a safer alternative to cigarettes. Steps to quitting smokeless tobacco are essentially the same as quitting cigarettes.

For more information on quitting, visit http://www.southalabama.edu/departments/counseling/smokingcess.html. For help locating a primary care physician with USA Physicians Group call (251) 434-3711.

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