I’m a people watcher. I love observing what people do, and even try to figure out what the story might be behind their behavior. One place I always watch people is when I’m stopped at a red light while others drive past me. So if you ever have that feeling that someone is watching you, you’re right, it’s me. And the two things I see people do more than anything else is use their mobile phones or smoke.
Both of these are harmful to your health in different ways. And although I probably could write an entire article about the dangers of texting or doing other activities on your phone while driving, I want to talk about smoking.
Not only is smoking a disgusting habit, but the health risks that go along with it are severe. Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to once again use this opportunity to educate you smokers on the dangers of your bad habit. And as always, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves:
— Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death among men and women.
— It kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and skin cancers combined.
— It will kill three times more men than prostate cancer and two times more women than breast cancer.
— The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer is only 15 percent, compared with 99 percent for prostate cancer and 88 percent for breast cancer.
Although non-smokers can develop lung cancer — about 10 percent of diagnosed cases, which includes those subjected to second-hand smoke — 90 percent of cases are made up of smokers and former smokers.
Addiction to cigarettes is the most important risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Unfortunately, unlike early screening for breast and prostate cancer, current science has not identified pre-cancerous lung conditions to look for in most people. Since family history has not shown to be a factor in lung cancer, one of the best ways to protect yourself is not to smoke.
Hopefully those facts have pushed you a little more towards quitting, but now you need a plan. Like anything, not having a plan to succeed is having a plan to fail. Here’s some advice that may help, but if you have any questions or concerns, contact your primary health-care provider.
— Try to quit with someone. Having the support of a spouse, best friend or co-worker can be beneficial. Ask people for their help. If they don’t know you need it, they probably won’t offer it.
— Remember that the urge to smoke only lasts a few minutes, and will then pass. The urges gradually become farther and farther apart as the days go by. When you get that urge, reach for a piece of sugarless gum, or try taking deep breaths.
— Do your best to stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee the first week or longer, as these tend to stimulate the desire for a cigarette. Avoid fatty foods, as you may gain weight even if you eat the same amount as before quitting. Discipline about diet and moderate exercise is extra important now.
— Change your normal routine — park at the back of the parking lot, take the stairs, walk the dog or even jog around the block. The more active you become, the less you’ll want to smoke.
— Ask friends and family members not to smoke in your presence. This is more important than you may realize and they will understand.
Need more help? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-877-44U-QUIT to talk to a trained counselor who can provide you with one- on-one counseling over the phone, or visit informative websites like www.lungcanceralliance.org and www.anti-smoking.org for tips.
Mike DeCinti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.