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By now, we all know that smoking is bad for our lungs.

But did you know that smoking also is bad for our hearts? In fact, smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers, according to the American Heart Association. About one of every five deaths from heart disease is linked to smoking.

That’s why it’s important for us as individuals to take a stand on a complex and emotionally charged habit that makes lots of people sick. That includes people who are exposed to second-hand smoke, especially children.

It’s an economic issue, too. Smoking impacts everyone through higher health care costs and lost human productivity. This year, $47 million was spent on advertising cigarettes in Delaware. Only $1.7 million was spent on initiatives to prevent smoking, part of a settlement with the federal government with tobacco companies.

One of the biggest culprits associated with tobacco is nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Nicotine doesn’t just hook people on cigarettes. It reduces the amount of oxygen that goes to their hearts. It speeds up the heart rate and contributes to hypertension.

Smoking also causes endothelial dysfunction, which creates an imbalance in the inner lining of the blood vessels. As a result, the vessels are more likely to suck up cholesterol, which contributes to heart attacks.

In Delaware, it’s against the law to smoke in an indoor space in which the general public is permitted. Yet 17.8 percent of Delawareans over 18 smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults age 24 and younger comprise the fastest growing group of smokers.

But let’s look on the positive side. The truth is we are never too old to quit. I am reminded of a woman in her 80s who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. She finally kicked the habit because cigarettes got too expensive. Just think about how much money you will save if you quit, too!

There are many other benefits to giving up smoking. The positive impact on the cardiovascular system begins within minutes. Soon, blood vessels are able to react normally. And after five years without tobacco, a former smoker’s risk of heart attack is equal to that of a non-smoker.

It isn’t easy to quit. But smokers can greatly increase their odds of becoming non-smokers if they get help.

Operated by the Delaware Division of Public Health, the Delaware Quitline offers free support and lots of great information for smokers, even those who don’t feel like they are ready to quit. You can get help from trained counselors on the phone or face-to-face. So why not call?

The number is 800-QUITNOW. Based on income, the Quitline also can connect smokers with vouchers for nicotine patches and other aids to help them give up tobacco.

 

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