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Recent attention to Obama’s on-and-off smoking habit has pinned a new kind of audacious hope to him. Anti-smoking advocates are counting on Obama as a role model for others trying to kick the habit, showing them — and himself — that while it’s hard, all things are indeed possible  to those who are struggling with trying to kick the ugly habit of smoking.

One imagines the very thought might send Obama back to the privacy of his yard to light up. In seriousness, though, his familiar plight — a former smoker who says he’s quit, but admittedly falls off the wagon — is potentially “the ultimate teachable moment,” as one anti-smoking advocate puts it.

“The president-elect is in a position to help people understand that it’s difficult to quit, and to encourage the 43 million adult Americans who smoke to join him in his efforts.”

“I do the same thing,” says Abrams, who like Obama is quitting partly for domestic reasons (Michelle Obama demanded that her husband quit; Abrams’ fiancee, Cori, has done the same). “When people ask, I say, ‘I’m on my way.’ ‘I’m in the process.’ ‘I’m getting there.'”

Abrams does have a looming deadline: the end of 2008. If he fails, he knows his fiancee will be sorely disappointed.

But let’s face it, that’s nothing compared to letting down an entire nation.

And many have high hopes, among them at least one newspaper’s editorial board. “With New Year’s almost upon us, and quitting bound to top many a resolution list, the nation’s smokers — and possibly future ones — might be expected to turn their eyes to Obama,” the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote this week. “And here, we hope, the president-elect will — with the loving encouragement of his wife and daughters, no doubt — set an example that will lead him and other Americans to healthier living.”

A similar hope, albeit with no implied timetable, comes from Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“He’s shown a firm commitment to beat this addiction even though no one could have tried under more stressful circumstances,” Myers says. “It takes courage to admit failure, but even more courage to pledge to succeed.”

One might think, given Obama’s clear ability to influence children in many ways, not to mention his own two daughters, that anti-smoking advocates would find him a disappointment on this issue.

Yet they say his foible makes him more human, and better able to teach by example.

“I cheered when I saw him acknowledge to Tom Brokaw the very human reaction that he’s fallen off the wagon,” says Myers. And the fact that he has two young daughters? “That makes him an even better role model.”

If he occasionally lights up, he won’t be the most recent White House occupant to do so. First lady Laura Bush, who quit a lifelong smoking habit at least a decade ago, reportedly will bum a cigarette from friends on occasion.

All the positive wishes sent out to Obama might be just the motivator he needs to close the deal. Or maybe not, says Dr. David Jorenby, a specialist in smoking cessation.

“Some smokers who are trying to quit actively want people to check up on them,” says Jorenby, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “For others, it drives them up the wall. One size does not fit all.”

Obama has done a lot right, says Jorenby. First, he hasn’t tried to go cold turkey, but rather is using nicotine replacement, in the form of Nicorette. Those using the gum are 1 1/2 times more likely to quit than those using a placebo, health officials have found.

Even more important, Obama keeps trying. “Relapsing is very common,” Jorenby says, with a typical smoker making four to six attempts before getting it right. (Healton puts it even higher, at eight to 11 attempts.)

One common reaction to Obama’s smoking is that it’s a mystifying contradiction to the rest of his personality — to the famous discipline that keeps him working out every single day, and helped him run one of the more successful campaigns in U.S. politics.

Jorenby says such logic is a fallacy. “They’re not mutually exclusive,” he says of discipline and smoking. For one thing, a cigarette often helps smokers concentrate — one reason it’s so hard to stop. “The thought of not being able to think clearly is terrifying to them,” he says.

And also, people often ignore the fact that tobacco addiction is a chemical dependency. “This is not simply a bad habit that one uses willpower to stamp out,” he says.

At least one observer says we all need to leave Obama alone. In fact, wrote Ron Rosenbaum on recently, our lives may depend on it.

Tongue in cheek, Rosenbaum imagines a day in the winter of 2009 when an international crisis has erupted. “Do you want Barack Obama, the guy who has his finger on our nuclear trigger … all irritable, his nerves and famously smooth temper on edge?”

“Give Obama a break,” writes Rosenbaum, who makes clear he’s not advocating cigarettes for others. “A smoking break.”

As much as we think it’s important that Obama quit smoking, we want you to quit smoking too! So in 2009, we highly suggest that you try and quit.


According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Women who quit smoking cut the biggest risks of death from heart disease “significantly” within five years and have a 20 percent lower chance of dying from related cancers in that time.

The study’s authors, led by Stacey A. Kenfield of Harvard University’s School of Public Health in Boston, analyzed post- 1980 data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a survey of almost 105,000 nurses conducted starting in 1976. The study will be published in the May 7th issue of JAMA

Researchers found that the risk of death was reduced by 13 percent within the first five years after quitting smoking, mostly due to a lower chance of dying from coronary heart disease, and dropped to the level of a person who had never smoked after 20 years.

“Our main message here is that the harms of smoking are reversible,” Kenfield said in a telephone interview from Boston yesterday. “For some causes of death, the reduction is much higher within the first five years. So it’s never too late to quit smoking. But we also saw a reduction in other diseases, so the message is that it’s never too late to stop even though you may have been smoking for many, many years.”

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death across the globe, with more than 5 million people dying from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses annually, according to the World Health Organization. That figure may rise to 10 million a year by 2030.

Follow-Up Studies

The chance of dying from lung cancer dropped 21 percent within five years after quitting when compared with people who continued to smoke, although additional risk didn’t disappear for 30 years, the study said.

Former smokers who had quit 20 to 30 years earlier had an 87 percent lower chance of dying from lung cancer when compared with current smokers, the study said. The risk dropped to the same level as a person who had never smoked after 20 years for all smoking-related cancers, which include lip, mouth and stomach cancers.

The risk of death from respiratory disease dropped 18 percent within a decade after quitting, and approached the same level as a person who had never smoked after 20 years.

Unlike previous studies, the authors followed up with the survey respondents every two years to ask about their smoking status, which Kenfield said made the findings more accurate.

Other studies “did not see a drastic decrease in risk especially with people that had quit smoking for a long time,” Kenfield said. For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, “we saw a very nice decline in risk down to the level of a non-smoker over time.”


In our never ending efforts to get you to quit smoking by any means neccessary,  Chris Pirillo and his take on tips to quit smoking.

Here is the most comprehensive list of what smoking does to you. The makers of Smoke Away ask you, what more do you need to know in order for you to quit smoking? How about 70 reasons not to smoke!

Cigarette Smoking causes:

  • Stained teeth, fingers, and hair
  • Increased frequency of colds, particularly chest colds and bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Neuralgia
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties, constipation, diarrhea, and colitis
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Convulsions
  • Leukoflakia (smoker’s patch)
  • Insomnia
  • Heart murmur
  • Buerger’s disease (inflammation of blood vessel linings)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Arthritis
  • Smoker’s hack
  • Nervousness
  • Wrinkles and premature aging
  • Tension
  • Gastric, duodenal, and peptic ulcers
  • Lung cancer
  • Cancer of the lip, tongue, pharynx, larynx, and bladder
  • Emphysema
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Artherosclerosis & arteriosclerosis (thickening and loss of
    elasticity of the blood vessels with lessened blood flow)
  • Inflammation of the sinus passages
  • Tobacco angina (nicotine angina pectoris)
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Tobacco amblyopia
  • Impared hearing
  • Decreased sexual activity
  • Mental depression
  • Blood flow to the extremities is decreased (cold hands and feet).
  • Nicotine affects the nerve-muscle junctions, causing tremors and shaking.
  • Nicotine causes narrowing and constriction of the arteries, adding to the heart’s load.
  • Nicotine, through its ability to stimulate, causes excitement and anxiety.
  • Nicotine, an insecticide, makes the blood more viscous and decreases the available oxygen.
  • Nicotine adversely affects the breathing, sweating, intestinal, and heart actions of our autonomic nervous system.
  • Two to four cigarettes in a row increase blood fats 200 to 400%. The average smoker (30 cigerettes per day) has 4 to 6 times the chance of having heart disease if he’s in the 45-54 year age group.
  • If the mother smoked during pregnancy, her baby will average 6 ounces less and its pulse will be 30% faster than a non-smoker’s baby, and there’ll be withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth.
  • Premature birth has been related to smoking by the mother.
  • There is a direct link between parents’ smoking and children’s respiratory disease.
  • Smoking causes widespread permanent destruction of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) and narrowing of small blood vessels in the lungs, decreasing the oxygen supply, requiring a higher blood pressure, thus causing extensive circulatory problems and premature heart attacks.
  • Smokers have difficulty running and exercising.
  • The cilia are tiny, delicate, hairlike coverings on the thin membrane of the surface of the lungs and trachea. This delicate lung-cleaning mechanism, in a cigarette smoker, at first paralyzes, then deteriorates, and is eventually made inoperative, through the complete destruction of the cilia. The smoker then must resort to coughing as a lung-cleaning method. This isn’t efficient, and more than a cupful of tars will have accumulated in his lungs by the time of his premature death.
  • Air pollution (auto exhausts, industry wastes, etc.) increases the lung cancer rate of the smoker, but not of the non-smoker. Apparently, the lung-cleaning cilia are alive and working for the non-smoker.
  • The time to recover from any specific ill, whether caused by smoking or not, is much longer for the smoker. Often, a non-smoker will survive a sickness from which he would have died had he smoked.
  • The non-smoker has no need to spend money to buy cigarettes, matches, lighters, holders, ashtrays, or to spend a dime a mile for that special trip to the store.
  • By dying earlier, the smoker will lose many tens of thousands of dollars in social security and other benefits which will naturally end up in the pockets of the non-smoker. The cigarette tax is more money from the smoker to the non-smoker.
  • The smoker is sick more often, explaining why he misses an average of 7½ work days per year, usually with a loss of pay, while the non-smoker will miss only 4½ days.
  • The overall bad health of the smoker results, on average, in a decrease of 8.3 years in his life expectancy, or about 12 to 14 minutes per cigarette.
  • The smoker’s body requires more sleep every night. This extra sleep must come from his spare time. Besides needing more sleep, smokers don’t sleep as well.
  • Smoking destroys vitamins, particularly vitamin C and the B’s.
  • Smoking has induced cancer in dogs.
  • Insurance rates can and will be higher for smokers.
  • Some 100,000 doctors stop smoking every year.
  • Foods will taste much better to non-smokers.
  • Smoking causes smelly breath; smelly house; smelly clothes; messy rugs and furniture, often burned; cigarettes lying around for kids to smoke (and matches to light);
  • Smoking is a bad influence on kids; you’re held in low esteem by your kids and your friends (even your smoking friends);
  • The inside of your home and auto windows need cleaning more often; death or property loss due to smoking in bed.
  • Smokers get into more auto accidents due to being less alert, having slower reflexes, and also due to fussing around while driving (lighting up, etc.).
  • A non-smoker would have to put on an additional 150 pounds in order to increase his mortality rate to that of an average smoker.
  • The fact that the tobacco industry provides work, that wouldn’t exist without it, is a myth. The money now wasted on tobacco, if diverted elsewhere, would create a wealth of new job openings in industries producing goods and services more useful to the society than cigarettes.
  • Smoking makes a person irritable and argumentative, partially due to a subconscious knowledge of all of the above facts.
  • Smoking has been related to brain damage and premature senility.
  • A smoker needs much more food and sleep since nicotine makes his body work harder and less efficiently and his heart beat faster, thus using more fuel and energy. This, together with the fact that a smoker loses much of his appetite and his taste for food, explains why smokers have less trouble keeping their weight down.
  • When one quits smoking, it’s IMPERATIVE that the intake of food is drastically reduced in order to keep the body weight normal.
  • Having to eat less is of course an additional saving of time and money.

You now have read over 70 facts and reasons why smoking is a) not good for you and b) can seriously shorten your life expectancy. What MORE do you need to know in order for you to quit smoking?

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