Taking on Tobacco

quit smokingMy daughter just wrote a paper on Nicotine for her Psychology class. Fascinating! Even as a cardiologist I never understood the intricacies and power of Nicotine addiction. Nicotine is a drug that influences innumerable neurotransmitters throughout our body and brain. It causes antithetical responses of relaxation/euphoria and alertness/readiness. Nicotine (and therefore cigarettes) is extraordinarily addictive. In fact, a single cigarette causes changes in our bodies that signal the beginning of dependence. And, nicotine/cigarettes clearly promote illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Four hundred thousand Americans die annually as a direct result of their smoking. Perhaps worse, forty thousand of us die from second hand smoke. Forty thousand innocent children, spouses, siblings, and co-workers are killed each year because they are unwittingly barraged by cigarette smoke. And every day three thousand teenagers join the masses of tobacco-loving Americans. How can this be? How can we stand idly by while so many die from a single preventable cause? Sadly I cannot answer these questions. Surely it has something to do with money and power, and there is likely an element of civil liberties as well.

In light of the toll tobacco takes on so many, I’m particularly perplexed by the recent emphasis on gun control. Yes, guns are often the vehicles that cause untimely death. Murder, suicide, accidental injuries are all consequences of mishandled guns. But what baffles me most is that in a perfect world guns could be harmless. They do not by nature kill. It is their misuse that leads to misfortune. Tobacco on the other hand cannot be separated from death and disease. You can’t use tobacco as a sport (as you can a gun) and get away with it. Even a single cigarette can kill a person if smoked under the wrong circumstances (in the setting of a vulnerable artery feeding the heart or brain for example). So why not turn our attention to something even more devastating than guns? At a time of economic hardship and sweeping medical reform I feel it would be far better to focus our attention on preventing “preventable” disease and death. So I beseech the powers that be in our Capitol to take on tobacco. It is a fight worth fighting.

Please read more about preventive cardiology at www.preventivecardiologyinc.com.

Tags: , , , ,

No comments yet.

Post Comment