Ten-Year Study Shows Dangers of Smoking Even Worse than Previously Thought

We've known for a long time that smoking is dangerous for smokers and those around them, causing illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Now, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the death toll from cigarettes is higher than anyone thought.

According to National Public Radio, scientists from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and multiple universities banded together for a study that spanned a decade and followed one million people. Not surprisingly, the smokers among them had higher death rates from diseases like lung, mouth, and esophageal cancer, as well as heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, since all those conditions are already linked to cigarettes.

A Nasty Surprise

However, there were some surprises, as the smokers also had higher death rates from things like infections, kidney failure, and types of heart and respiratory disease that hadn't previously been linked with smoking. For five of those diseases, smokers were five times as likely to die as their non-smoking counterparts. The study's sobering results showed that diseases not on the surgeon general's list as being smoking related accounted for 17 percent of the excess deaths among smokers. In this case, "excess" refers to death rates above and beyond those of non-smokers.

While smoking's exact causal role in the additional diseases isn't known, the researchers say there are logical possibilities. For example, smoking weakens the immune system, which makes people more susceptible to infections. Study author Eric Jacobs points out that smoking is an established cause of diabetes, a disease that often leads to kidney failure.

More Reasons to Quit

If you're a smoker and want to quit, this new study offers up even more reasons to toss the butts for good. So does this article, which discusses the physical, social, and emotional issues caused by a cigarette addiction.

Stopping is a challenge, but this page offers good advice on creating an effective smoking cessation plan. Choose a start date, decide how you'll deal with your triggers, and get support from your family and friends if you think it will help. Check out SmokeFree.gov for even more ideas and assistance.