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Surgeon General Releases New Report on Smoking

The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, has just released a searing report on cigarette smoke. The report, posted on the US Department of Health and Human Services website, details how exposure to tobacco smoke – even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke – causes immediate damage to the body that can lead to serious illness or death.

"How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease," states that cellular damage and tissue inflammation from tobacco smoke are immediate, and that repeated exposure weakens the body's ability to heal the damage.

"The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately," Benjamin said in a release accompanying the report. "Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer."

The report also explains why it is so difficult to quit smoking. Cigarettes are actually designed for addiction, the report says, and contents of tobacco products make them more addictive than ever before. Today's cigarettes deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently than cigarettes of years ago.

Tobacco smoke contains a mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 cause cancer. Every exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals could damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer. Exposure to smoke also decreases the benefits of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Smoking causes more than 85 percent of lung cancers and can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.

One in three cancer deaths in the US is tobacco-related, but there are now more effective ways to help people quit. Nicotine replacement products are now available over the counter, and doctors can prescribe medications that improve the chances of quitting successfully. Smokers can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help, or click here for more information about quitting.

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