Affinity Health Plan

  • Cigarette Smoking: Fifty Years Ago This Week

    January 13, 2015

    quit smoking2The year was 1964, and a health report was released that was so explosive that a press conference had to be held in secret. Before the news was released, reporters were held in a locked, secure auditorium in the U.S. State Department.  No telephones were allowed, so that no reporter could break the story before the others. What's more, the news conference was held on a Saturday, so the stock markets could not immediately react to the announcement.

    The news? A report by U.S. Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, M.D.  stating that cigarette smoking was hazardous to people's health. It might not sound like much today but the news was earth shattering back then. At the time, 42 percent of all Americans smoked. Movies and ads glamorized the habit, making men more manly and women more alluring. Tobacco was a major economic commodity and the source of many jobs.  The next day the news made front-page national and international headlines. It also was America's wake up call to end its affair with smoking.

    We've come a long way from when nearly half of all Americans smoked. Now only 18.1 percent of adults have the habit. However, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Yet, each year, it accounts for one of every five deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In New York State, approximately 2.4 million adults smoke. It has the fifth lowest adult smoking rate in the nation; Utah is lowest.

    Dr. Mujibur R. Majumder, a New York pulmonologist, said his practice is seeing a decline especially among young men. "A lot of patients are trying to quit," he said.  Of those who try, he estimated that more than 80 percent of his patients successfully completed smoking cessation programs. "More tools, such as the patch and gum, are available now," he pointed out.

    With this support in place, the Dr. Majumder said smokers can end their habits in one to three months. "The medicines work," he said.

    Even though New York State has ranks among the nation's lowest, no decline has taken place for certain parts of the population.  They are those with:

    • low incomes
    • low educational expectations
    • serious mental illness 

    Every year, smoking kills 23,600 adults in the Big Apple. Furthermore, a half million New Yorkers live with serious illnesses and disabilities caused by smoking.

    Nicotine is what keeps a person hooked on cigarettes. This drug, which is naturally produced in tobacco, causes an addiction that is thought to be as strong as if it were heroin or cocaine.

    Other cigarette additives include arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, cadmium, nitrosamines and mercury. In total, a person inhales 7,000 chemical combinations through cigarette smoke.  "It's the chemicals that are added that are carcinogenic," the doctor said. Almost 70 chemicals are known cancer-causing agents.  "It causes damage to every part of the lung," he said. What's more, it destroys every part of the breathing process. "People with smoking problems also have sinus problems and nasal problems," Dr. Majumder said.

    Nationwide, smoking is responsible for about 90 percent-that is 9 out of 10 - of lung cancer deaths in men and women. However, it can cause cancer in any part of the body (visit the CDC's website for a full list).

    Smoking cigarettes causes 80 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.

    More women die from lung cancer due to smoking each year than from breast cancer.

    "No real therapies for curing lung diseases are available" Dr. Majumder said. "That is why prevention is so important."

    The best way to quit smoking is to never start.  For those caught in a nicotine-dependent situation that makes quitting nearly impossible, there's plenty of help:

    • For FREE information and services call the New York State Smokers' Quitline toll-free at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit
    • Medicare currently covers quit-smoking treatments. The benefit covers two tobacco cessation attempts per year and up to four face-to-face counseling sessions per attempt.
    • Medicaid users who are Affinity Health Plan members can get smoking cessation counseling. Ask your doctor for details.

    Mujibur R. Majumder, MD, specializes in pulmonary, sleep disorders, and critical care medicine. He is the medical director of Richmond Hill Sleep Center, a pulmonary and sleep-related diagnosis and treatment facility in Queens, NY. 

    Comments (1)

    Nicole Lascurain on 03/27/2015
    Hi, I hope all is well with you. Healthline just published an infographic detailing the effects of tobacco smoke on the body. This is an interactive chart allowing the reader to pick the side effect they want to learn more about. You can see the overview of the report here: Our users have found our guide very useful and I thought it would be a great resource for your page: I would appreciate it if you could review our request and consider adding this visual representation of the effects of smoking to your site or sharing it on your social media feeds. Please let me know if you have any questions. All the best, Nicole Lascurain • Assistant Marketing Manager p: 415-281-3100 | f: 415-281-3199 Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health 660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp About Us:
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