It’s probably no huge shock that when you look at the numbers, baby boomers dominate America’s smokers. But even now, with the dust long settled on the deadly risks of smoking, there’s another generation picking up the habit: millennials.
According to the most recent Blue Cross Blue Shield survey on millennial health, rates of tobacco use disorder among millennials increased by 7% between 2014 and 2017. Today, nearly 6 out of every 100 millennials smoke. For millennials ages 34 to 36, smoking rates are even higher, making those in this generation less healthy than their Generation X counterparts were at the same age.
Everyone’s heard that smoking is bad, but sometimes it’s good to hear a reminder why outside of a school assembly. Here are legitimate reasons to keep cigarettes out of your life.
Why You Should Quit — or Avoid Starting
Smoking takes an incredible toll on the body. It isn’t just bad for your lungs; it increases your risk for cancer, stroke and heart disease. Smoking causes about one-third of all heart disease-related deaths in the U.S. A smoker who has a stroke is twice as likely to die from it than a nonsmoker. And tobacco contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which have been linked to cancer. One 2015 study even indicated that smoking contributes to 50% of deaths among 12 different types of cancer, including leukemia and stomach, pancreatic, bladder, kidney and throat cancer.
Smoking damages the arteries, creating blockages that force the heart to work harder just to pump blood throughout your body. When this happens, your organs don’t get as much of the vital oxygen they need to function normally. This is a cause for concern on its own, but the issue can compound into larger health problems as well. Smoking also makes your blood more likely to clot, raises the amount of fat in your blood and reduces your levels of good cholesterol. All of these effects contribute to heart disease and stroke.
What about vaping, or smoking electronic cigarettes? Those options aren’t much better. E-cigarette use is most common among young people, especially middle and high schoolers. Many start their initial tobacco use with e-cigarettes: 40% of e-cigarette users ages 18 to 24 had never been regular smokers beforehand.
Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain several toxins that increase your risk of asthma and various lung diseases. In fact, in response to almost 100 recent cases of lung disease among vapers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched an investigation into the risks. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine, which is addictive and can cause changes in the body that increase your heart disease risk.
Whether you smoke or are just thinking about starting, the data makes a compelling case for leaving the lighter tucked away.
Options to Help You Quit Smoking
None of this is to say that avoiding these health risks is easy. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest lifestyle changes a person can make. That’s why having support is so important.
Roughly 40% of people who successfully quit say support from other people made a big difference. This support could come from family, friends or your health care providers, or all of the above. Gravitate toward people in your life you can trust to offer encouragement — not judgment — during difficult stages of recovery, including relapse.
Your doctor can offer guidance throughout the process, suggesting resources and directing you to counseling and support services, such as smoking cessation programs. These courses allow you to meet other people who are trying to quit, learn to understand your triggers and pick up stress-reduction techniques to help you avoid smoking.
Improving Your Long-Term Health
Smoking is a hard habit to break, but the health benefits are worth the effort. There are so many health risks of smoking that just quitting smoking alone can produce a long-lasting boost to your long-term health. All of the conditions brought on by smoking are linked to early death, and many of them are preventable if you follow a healthy lifestyle — which doesn’t include tobacco use.
You deserve to have the best quality of life possible. Don’t let smoking prevent you from achieving it.