If you’re still smoking cigarettes in 2019, then you definitely know how you’re affecting your body. From commercials on tv to brochures at the doctor’s office, the word has officially been spread about how terrible smoking is for your health. And hey, maybe you just don’t care. Maybe it doesn’t bother you that you’re 30 times more likely to end up with lung cancer. Maybe you don’t have a problem with gum disease (who needs teeth anyway?) You know, maybe you just don’t think heart disease and strokes are all that bad. After all, it’s your choice anyway. If it doesn’t affect anyone but you, then why do so many people have such a problem with the habits of smokers?
Well, because it isn’t just about you. You might have heard of the term secondhand smoke. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes it as “the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers.” So even if you don’t care about how smoking will affect you, just think about how it will affect those around you who choose not to smoke. Along with the higher risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and cancer, smoking has proven to curb the growth of children’s’ lungs, cause pneumonia and asthma, and is a huge cause of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). The American Lung Association estimates that secondhand smoke causes roughly 41,000 deaths each year.
You might be thinking, “Okay, I don’t chain smoke in front of my baby with all the windows sealed. How much am I really hurting those around me?” Well, even if you step outside to smoke that cigarette, you’re still hurting them more than you think. The truth is, even small exposure can heed big results. And if you’ve ever smoked indoors, you may have noticed the residue from smoke lingering (very noticeable on car windows and windshields). That residue, even in small amounts, can prove to be fatal. When you light up, remember how it affects your family, children, neighbors, pets, and coworkers.
Assuming smoking hasn’t robbed you of all lung function yet, try taking a walk outside. Look around at the great outdoors! Now, look at the ground. See any cigarette butts? If you’re in NYC like me, you probably see them packed in between the concrete slabs of the sidewalk, being pecked at by pigeons, and hey, I’ve even seen homeless people pick up the particularly “salvageable” ones and relight them. (That is gross, please don’t do that). In the city, it’s become all too common to see these discarded paper filters everywhere. The compounds in typical filters, called cellulose acetate, can take anywhere from 2-10 years to decompose, and that’s if it doesn’t contaminate the soil it lands on, or if it isn’t eaten by wildlife first. (While you should already know that cigarette butts should not be consumed by humans, know that the animals who are picking up your cigarette butts will get that stuck in their intestines, where they will either die from absorbing the toxic chemicals inside of it, or from the blockage in their gastric system it will create. And your neighborhood squirrels didn’t ask for that). And if all of THAT wasn’t awful enough, we must take into consideration the thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars of property damage due to irresponsible cigarette disposal and the wildfires it causes. Not to mention the acres and acres of deforestation (and use of pesticides) just for tobacco plantations, suppressing biodiversity and devastating the planet’s ecosystems.
Biting that nicotine addiction in the butt is hard, especially if you’ve given up on the idea of doing it for your own health. But, quitting will help everything and everyone around you because it doesn’t just affect you!
Resources for those trying to quit:
Quit Smoking: How to Fight Nicotine Cravings
Nicotine and Withdrawal: Symptoms and how to cope
Quit Smoking Resources CDC