For every year someone smokes after age 40, his or her life will be shortened by three months. Plus, there is evidence that second-hand smoke can harm you and your family.
Today, about 20 percent of adult men in Canada smoke. Rising prices, social stigma and rules about where you can smoke mean that ‘we are left with the hard-core smokers,’ says Dr. Gaston Ostiguy, head of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. If someone you care about has tried to quit numerous times or smokes a lot, he or she may need help. (And, yes, 16 percent of adult women still smoke; this advice is for them, too!)
A smoker’s chances of success increase if he uses nicotine replacement products such as the patch or gum. Prescription drugs are also available: Champix targets the brain’s nicotine receptors, while the antidepressant Zyban has been found to reduce cravings for nicotine. Both may have side effects, so he should be following up with his doctor.
What else can you do to help? Share these studies to encourage him to butt out for good.
Smoking shortens lifespan
In a study published in 2008 that followed 1,658 men for more than 25 years, Finnish researchers showed that men who had never smoked lived 10 years longer than heavy smokers, and reported better social lives and physical functioning. ‘For those not able to quit, reduction might also be beneficial,’ wrote the researchers, as those who smoked less often had a better quality of life than heavy smokers.
It increases your stroke risk
Living with a smoker has more downsides than dealing with the smell of cigarettes clinging to everything. According to the results of a 2008 Harvard study of 16,225 adults over age 50 who were followed for nine years, being married to a smoker raises your risk of having a stroke by 42 percent. Those who used to smoke themselves and were still married to a smoker fared even worse: Their stroke rate was 72 percent higher. ‘This strengthens the evidence that reducing smoking rates would also lead to reduction in stroke risk for the spouses of smokers,’ says Maria Glymour, assistant professor at Harvard School of Public Health.
It impairs the brain
We know second-hand smoke affects heart health and cancer risk. But it also impacts your brain. A 2009 study measured exposure to second-hand smoke in 4,809 adults over the age of 50, and found that those exposed to the highest levels of smoke had a 44 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment compared to those with no exposure. So do more than crosswords to invigorate your brain: Help him quit.
This article was originally titled "Sick of his smoking?" in the November/December 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.