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What Ear, Nose and Throat Problems Can be Caused by Smoking?

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Updated June 27, 2014

Question: What Ear, Nose and Throat Problems Can be Caused by Smoking?
Answer:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 45.3 million adults within the United States smoke cigarettes. Statistics from 2000-2004 show that about 20% of deaths each year are related to tobacco use. That is about 440,000 deaths each year. Aside from deaths, there is an additional 8.5 million people that suffer from smoking-related chronic illnesses. As a result, the annual healthcare-related costs approximate $193 billion dollars in the United States alone. These are costs that are caused by harmful personal habits of the individual. However there is an additional $10 billion dollars in healthcare costs related to secondhand smoke.

Because smoking has been proven to have such a negative impact on public health, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) mandated in 2011 that by September 2012, all cigarette packaging would need to have larger written warnings as well as graphical warnings. Despite lawsuits brought against the FDA by tobacco companies, the United States will join several other countries including Canada and Brazil in making anti-smoking warnings more prominent to consumers and non-consumer alike. Health risks related to smoking include:

  • Head and Neck cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Other types of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Erectile dysfunction

Regardless of the smoking-related illness, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death within the United States. As such, many employers have started to charge their employees higher health insurance premiums dependent upon their smoking status. Of course, one of the main disorders caused by smoking is cancer. Lung cancer is not the only cancer related to smoking. For example, cancers of the head and neck can be caused by smoking including: oral (oropharyngeal), laryngeal, esophageal and pharyngeal cancer.

Why does smoking cause cancer?

Smoking causes cancer because of the tobacco smoke. There are more than 7,000 chemicals that have been identified in tobacco smoke. No less than 250 of these chemicals are harmful (ammonia, carbon monoxide, cyanide, and hydrogen) with at least 69 being carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Exposure to carcinogenic substances increases your risk for developing cancer. The health risks don't stop here, however, in addition to cancer there are many other health problems associated with smoking.

Non-Cancerous ENT Disorders Related to Smoking

There are many ENT disorders that can be caused by smoking. Some are more irritations than health risks, but all may impact your quality of life. It is important to remember, that the list below may occur from secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke even if you do not yourself smoke. Children who live in homes where parents or other individuals smoke indoors are especially at risk for these disorders.

I’m a smoker, is it too late?

While not having ever smoked presents the greatest health benefits, quitting now both increases your current health status as well as reduces your risk substantially for developing ENT disorders related to smoking. Quitting has multiple health benefits. After you have quit smoking, your health will continue to improve and your risk of developing related illnesses will drop. While it's never too late to stop, it is important to realize that there is not a “safe” amount of tobacco smoke exposure. Depending on genetics and other factors some individuals can develop health problems after smoking for a very short period of time.

If you would like help in your quest to quit smoking, there are many resources available online such as quitsmoking.about.com or smokefree.gov that can help you along your way to a smoke-free life.

Sources:

American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Tobacco and Cancer. Retrieved on October 25, 2012 from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/tobaccoandcancerpdf.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States: Current Estimate. Retrieved on October 25, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/index.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Surgeon General’s Reports – Smoking & Tobacco Use. Retrieved on October 25, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2004/complete_report/index.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Smoking & Tobacco Use: Fast Facts. Retrieved on October 27, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Tobacco Products: Labeling. Retrieved on October 25, 2012 from http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/Labeling/default.htm

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