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The Butt Facts:
Cigarette Smoking

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article published online on June 5, 2008 in The Mississauga News under Dr. Kujtan's Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

It is my view that cigarette smoking is an addiction to nicotine. It may start as a fad or habit but turns into an addictive behavior. For that reason, I do not get upset with patients who have smoking problems, but I do get very irritated with rude smokers. There is no argument that second hand smoke is harmful and even smoke residue in clothes can affect small children. Cigarettes are much more than dried tobacco rolled in paper. Cigarettes are intricate and highly effective drug delivery systems containing closely guarded and patented technology. Smoking a pack a day produces a four-fold increase in your odds of suffering a heart attack. Not all smokers will develop lung cancer, but many will and almost all will suffer negative lung effects. Smokers who survive heart attacks usually end up on a slew of medications, and many continue to smoke. The addiction can overshadow guilt, causing this group to reluctantly accept the risks of continued smoking. Quitting smoking has been shown to be more effective than a bucket of heart pills. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are now actively encouraging smoking cessation.

Nicotine and various oxidants are the most harmful chemicals for the heart and brain, while various carcinogens produced in the combustion process affect the lungs. The reasons why we don't notice harmful effects are found in our genes. Humans have the capacity to regenerate and heal. This ability wrongfully reinforces a belief that certain behaviors can do no wrong, and also why we don't notice things till we get older. The choice to use a small dose of nicotine to offset withdrawal effects while quitting makes sense. It is safe and free of carcinogens. Quitting will not completely reverse risk factors, but you will feel better. Children of non-smokers are much less likely to take up the habit.

Viewing smoking as a non-medical nuisance is detrimental. Our hospitals are prime examples. Having thousands of employees, the response of hospitals to smoking was at first to designate smoking areas out of view. It then turned into a total smoking ban. Imagine banning coffee! Smokers are now forced to vacate hospital property, i.e. stand on sidewalks in front of hospitals to puff. Although well intentioned, the result is an odd public sight, which sends the wrong message to the hundreds of school kids who ride the buses. Everyday, these children witness people dressed in hospital uniforms or gowns, which they misconstrue as nurses and doctors, openly smoking in front of a hospital. You cannot buy that kind of advertising and even the Marlboro Man would be pleased. It's akin to storing your garbage at the curb all week long. Employers must realize the benefits and long term cost savings that can be incurred by having proactive smoking cessation programs. Please, partner up with your doctor and quit today!

Related resources:

Not a Cough in a Carload - Images From the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking, from Stanford School of Medicine, Lane Medical Library.
Babies may absorb smoke residue in home by Liz Szabo, USA TODAY.
Can cigarette smoke residue in clothes cause asthma in 2-3 yr old children? From Yahoo! Answers.
No smoking: That means you too, Nurse by E A. Torriero, Los Angeles Times.
Hospitals begin tough smoking ban by Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Smoking ban cuts the number of heart attacks by more than 40 per cent at some hospitals by Rebecca Camber, DailyMail.co.uk.
Smokefree NUH. Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust operates a smoke-free policy inside and out across both of its campuses.
Cigarette Litter from CigaretteLitter.Org, a not-for-profit organization. It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. ... toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.
Mother Earth Is Not an Ashtray from WhyQuit.com. The nicotine trapped inside 200 used filters is sufficient to kill an adult human - 50 to 60 milligrams. Pick up a few dozen butts and take a big whiff. Smell the scent of bitter almonds? That's hydrogen cyanide.
Cigarette Butts Fact Sheet from CleanUp.com.au.

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