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Smoking Is Not Harmless, But It Does Not Kill Everyone

Updated on February 6, 2013

© Patty Inglish, MS/Preventive Medicine 2010. All rights reserved;may not be used without written permission of the author.

The Risk of Cancer

In our preventive medicine degree program, we learned from the CDC and NIH that smoking cigarettes does not kill everyone, but that in combination with exposure to smog, other air pollution, and automotive/trucking fumes, its risk of cancer production increases by 8,000%. Therefore, if you smoke and live in smog or work in the automotive industry, you are more likely to develop lung and other cancers. In fact, 1) smoking and 2) alcohol consumption increase the health risk of all types of cancers in the general population. Still, not everyone in the highest risk behaviors develop cancer(s).

For a complete list of possible health problems caused or linked to smoking, access the websites of the CDC, NIH, and Mayo Clinic.

Effects Other Than Cancer

When my mother was pregnant, my parents were advised to cease smoking and limit caffeine intake. They refused. One result of this is that my adult height was about 4 inches shorter than expected and shorter than the parental generation. However, it is usual for children to grow to heights taller than parents -- No, there were no short people on either side of the family - only tall people for many generations, including a 7-footer. I was still tall enough to enter the US Armed Forces, if I had chosen that career path, so the height effect was not life-altering in that respect. I still wonder about unknown effects.

By the time I reached middle school, both parents smoked 5 full packs of cigarettes a day (a total of an entire carton daily), filling the house with smoke and refusing to open a door or window for air during 9 months of every year. I suffered a new cold every 2 to 3 weeks for at least 15 years and pneumonia twice, at ages 6 and 16. Somehow, I never contracted influenza and have not done so to this day. Looking back, I would have expected to have it several times.

My hair and clothing smelled like stale cigarettes, even after washing. The kitchen and food tasted like cigarettes. The loud hacking cough of both parents interrupted sleep and homework concentration - and probably affected thinking processes. The irritability caused by the chemicals contained in cigarettes contributed to the unwanted behavior of one parent - yelling and shouting from dawn until dusk. I was irritable as well.

My father smoked from ages 13 to early 70s, quit, and died of lung cancer at age 76. My mother smoked because he smoked, with the same result several years later.

I do not smoke, because at age 5, viewing a television commercial about the good taste of a cigarette, I went to the cigarette box on the coffee table, took out a cigarette and ate it. I can taste it now. Commercials are liars, I thought - I still think it.

Smoking and second hand smoke have now been shown to affect a number of human body systems in a negative way. While not everyone that smokes will quit smoking, everyone that smokes can be considerate enough to keep smoking away from children, in my opinion.

Death Wish

In the film Harrison Bergeron, starring Christopher Plummer, Sean Astin, and others, the shadow government's leader (Plummer) is berating an incompetent aide in one scene and giving orders to several. The specifically mentioned incompetent aide asks, "What do you want me to do?"

Plummer's character replies, "I want you to get cancer!"

In my worst moments, I want to say this to people that smoke around children, but know that it won't help and is futile.


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