U.S. Surgeon General: One cigarette counts

    America’s Doctor in Chief, Regina Benjamin, says even your first cigarette can hurt your health.

    The report from the U.S. Surgeon General warns that even brief exposure to smoke can damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot.

    Surgeon General Benjamin also said women smokers may find it harder to conceive, while smoking makes managing diabetes more difficult.

    Dr. Taine Pechet is a thoracic surgeon at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania where he cares for many patients with lung cancer.

    “Most people will realize that if you smoke a pack a day sooner or later it’s going to get you in trouble,” he said. But he said many people don’t know the newer evidence, “related to cardiac and vascular disease and the effects on blood vessels. That a single cigarette may be the thing that causes the blood clot to form and causes the heart attack.”

    About 20 percent of people in the United States smoke, and since 2003 the country has made no progress in slashing the percentage of smokers.

    Federal health officials report that marketers spend $34 million each day pitching cigarettes and other tobacco related products. And every day, about 4,000 adolescents try a cigarette for the first time.

    Pechet says doctors have to be equally vigilant as they offer people reasons to quit.

    The report details how — and how soon — tobacco and smoke chemicals lead to disease. Benjamin said one cigarette can cause cell-level damage and tissue inflammation.

    Jennifer Ibrahim is a tobacco control expert at Temple University.

    She says doctors should use the new informaton as ammunition to get their patients to quit, but she says America needs to keep up population level efforts to curb smoking including bans and social marketing.

    “There is a cost associated with a media campaign or awareness campaigns for a smoke free policy, and we know that you get a larger bang for your buck out of that. You are impacting more people with a population level intervention, than solely a one-to-one smoking cessation interaction,” she said.

    Every day about 1,000 adolescents become daily smokers, federal health officials said.

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