By now we all know the dangers of smoking cigarettes — mostly because it’s pounded into our heads from the time we are kids.
From what I can tell, smoking cigarettes is taboo. Cigarette smokers are looked down upon by society — which is funny when you consider smoking cigarettes was once an attractive and desirable activity.
It’s completely socially acceptable to shame people for cigarette smoking because as a society “we know” they’re giving themselves cancer — right?
Let’s take a look at the data.
The Health Risks of Smoking Cigarettes
The following information is provided by CDC.gov.
- “Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
- Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Illegal drug use
- Alcohol use
- Motor vehicle injuries
- Firearm-related incidents
- More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.
- Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
- Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
- Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease.
Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs.
- Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Cigarette smoking causes most cases of lung cancer.“
As terrible as all that sounds, we have to maintain an objective view. The human body has an incredible ability to overcome the abuse from cigarette smoking, despite what the media will have you believe.
Here is what the CDC reports:
Quitting and Reduced Risks
- “Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks. Just 1 year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
- Within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke could fall to about the same as a nonsmoker’s.
- If you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half within 5 years.
- Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for lung cancer drops by half.”
That’s good news for cigarette smokers — once you quit, the negative side effects go away, as well as the major health risks associated with those side effects.
However, when you consider that the cardiovascular side effects are among the biggest concerns of cigarette smoking, you have to keep in mind that many paths lead towards poor cardiovascular health.
And one of the most common causes of poor cardiovascular health is obesity — or simply being out of shape.
Research Suggests Being Unfit is Almost as Unhealthy as Smoking
In July 2016, new data from a 45-year study was published. This study examines the health effects of low aerobic activity in men from Sweden, and the results are quite fascinating for anyone interested in living a long, healthy life.
According to their findings, poor physical fitness is second only to smoking as a risk factor for decreased lifespan. The key metric in this study is VO2 max because it is the most objective and reliable sign of aerobic capacity, but they also measured blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
“Aerobic capacity is an interesting measure for scientists to study, because it is affected by both genetics and lifestyle. Some portion of our VO2 max is innate; we inherit it from our parents. But much of our endurance capacity is determined by our lifestyle. Being sedentary lowers VO2 max, as does being overweight. Exercise raises it.
Among this group of middle-aged men, aerobic capacities ranged from slight to impressively high, and generally reflected the men’s self-reported exercise habits. Men who said that they seldom worked out tended to have a low VO2 max. (Because VO2 max is more objective than self-reports about exercise, the researchers focused on it.)
To determine what impact fitness might have on lifespan, the scientists grouped the men into three categories: those with low, medium or high aerobic capacity at age 54.
Then they followed the men for almost 50 years.”
One of the fascinating findings is how exercise improves lifespan, regardless of other health factors commonly linked with premature death.
“They compared the risk of relatively early death to a variety of health parameters, particularly each man’s VO2 max, blood pressure, cholesterol profile and history of smoking. (They did not include body weight as a separate measure, because it was indirectly reflected by VO2 max.)
Not surprisingly, smoking had the greatest impact on lifespan. It substantially shortened lives.
But low aerobic capacity wasn’t far behind. The men in the group with the lowest VO2 max had a 21 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those with middling aerobic capacity, and about a 42 percent higher risk of early death than the men who were the most fit.
Poor fitness turned out to be unhealthier even than high blood pressure or poor cholesterol profiles, the researchers found. Highly fit men with elevated blood pressure or relatively unhealthy cholesterol profiles tended to live longer than out-of-shape men with good blood pressure and cholesterol levels.“
Think about that last sentence — “highly fit men with elevated blood pressure or relatively unhealthy cholesterol profiles tended to live longer than out-of-shape men with good blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”
If you’re looking for one simple habit that can have a dramatic impact on your life — daily cardiovascular exercise should be at the top of your list.
Being Fat vs. Being a Smoker in Modern Society
I think we can all agree that cigarette smokers are treated like shit for smoking.
Sure, smoking is bad for your health, but that’s not why we shame and look down upon smokers. That’s just the reason we use to justify it.
The real reason is anti-smoking propaganda has made smoking a taboo activity, which makes it socially acceptable to shame smokers.
The general reaction to a person smoking in public can be summarized by the following 9-second Dave Chappelle clip.
It’s funny because it’s true.
Now let me ask you this — do you think fewer people smoke today because we have a better understanding of the health risks or because of the social stigma associated with smoking?
Your first reaction is probably to think it’s because everyone knows how dangerous smoking is.
But if that were the case, then why would people continue to smoke?
Better yet, why would people drink and drive or do anything else dangerous?
Because we don’t care as much about long-term health risks as we believe we do.
Fewer people smoke today because it’s no longer socially acceptable to be a smoker.
Well, consider this — how many transgender people were you aware of before Caitlynn Jenner made being trans trendy?
This brings me to my next point…
Perhaps the rise in obesity has less to do with fast food and more to do with the social stigma of being fat — or in this case, the lack of social stigma.
Science Proves Fat Shaming Works
British gay conservative journalist, online provocateur, and daily Newport-smoker, Milo Yiannoploulos wrote a thought-provoking column showing the links between fat shaming and weight loss, backed by science.
Milo’s take on fat shaming is simple:
“My view, of course, is that if you are obese, you should hate yourself. At least until you get better. Because fatness is a health problem, and shame works.”
I know that might sound harsh, but as I’ve said before — being brutally honest is a great quality because the person who tells you what you need to hear, instead of what you want to hear actually has your best interests at heart.
Here are some excerpts:
“Firstly, if people feel shit about themselves, they’re more likely to change. A landmark study by obesity experts in 2014 found that a “desire to improve self-worth” was one of the most important motivating factors encouraging people to lose weight. What does this tell us? That encouraging fatties to “love themselves,” as the fat acceptance movement does, is the worst possible message you could send people if you want them to lose weight.
The same study found that obese people were more likely to lose weight around “life transitions,” like starting high school. In other words, people start to worry about how others will see them, especially when they need to make a good first impression. Fear of social judgement is key.[…]
A study from UCLA’s dedicated eating research institute concurred, explicitly recommending social pressure on the overweight as a remedy to America’s obesity crisis. Sorry Lindy West, but the experts agree: fat-shaming is good for you.
There’s another danger in our society’s perennial niceness and reluctance to offend. You see, if a fatty isn’t shamed immediately, it’s likely that the hambeast’s self-destructive behaviour might spread to its friends.
Why? Because people change their health and dietary habits to mimic that of their friends and loved ones, especially if they spend lots of time around them. Peer pressure encourages people to look like the people they admire and whose company they enjoy. Unless there’s a more powerful source of social pressure (say, fat shaming) from the rest of society, of course.[…]
And the truth is, we shame fat people for a reason. It’s not just cruelty; it’s for their benefit, our benefit, and the good of the species. In 2007, a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia found that fatness can trigger feelings of disgust and nausea in healthy people — age-old evolutionary signals of a threat to human health, like bacteria, viruses, or illnesses.[…]
Instead, the same lefties who want to stop us having fags or drinking too much in public (and even alcoholics and chain smokers are healthier than the obese) are the same ones urging the authorities to treat “fat-shaming” as a crime and investigate it. Insane!
Why are we fine with shaming and peer pressuring smokers, deluging them with ads and facts about smoking-related illnesses, when obesity is just as deadly, if not more so? Why is it OK to show cancerous lungs on fag packets, but not an enlarged heart on a carton of ice cream?
Not only that, but smokers are forced to pay higher insurance premiums to offset the cost of their health problems. Smokers sometimes have to pay up to 50 per cent more than normal for health coverage. Yet fatties, despite being more prone to health problems than smokers, get a pass. The rest of us have to subsidize their poor lifestyle choices.”
Despite how offended you might be by reading that — you have to admit he makes a point.
I’m not suggesting we start shaming fat people. I’m suggesting that we as a society be more objective with how we shame others.
If we’re going to shame smokers for their self-destructive health behaviors, then it’s time we acknowledge ALL self-destructive lifestyle choices for what they are.
You’re not going to see me trying to offend people into losing weight.
Milo’s already doing a better job at that than I ever could anyway.
However, I do want to help people get control over their physical health. That’s one of the driving factors behind starting this blog.
Health is #1 — you HAVE to get your health under control before you can enjoy life to its fullest.
I’m passionate about this because I’ve seen firsthand with family members and friends what a difference it makes to be healthy and fit.
The biggest obstacle I’ve observed is that people who struggle with weight loss have a hard time accepting the reality that diet and exercise are not temporary solutions — they are permanent habits.
As the studies show, we have to be active throughout our entire lives to be healthy and live longer.
It’s not what you do for a month or three months that matters in the long run — it’s what you do on a daily basis.
I can tell you that feeling confident in your own skin provides more satisfaction than any dessert or snack can ever bring. Once you get in shape and feel the difference for yourself, you no longer have a strong desire for junk food and sitting on your ass.
And the ironic part is that you can get away with eating more “cheat meals” when you’re lean than you can when you’re overweight. Staying in shape is dramatically easier than getting in shape. (Because it’s a habit!)
However, once you make the mindset shift that fitness is a lifelong endeavor, you start to associate more positive feelings with the actions that make you healthier and leaner.
You understand that eating a healthy diet and exercising are not optional — they are requirements — for optimal health, longevity, and happiness.
Once you turn these routines into daily habits, you lose the anxiety of trying to lose all your excess fat in 30 days or even a year.
You start to focus on making consistent progress, instead of making consistent excuses.
You turn your health and fitness goals into habits because goals are temporary milestones and habits are permanent actions that control our lives.
If you’re finally ready to take control of your health and create permanent habits, I’ve created a simple system:
Maybe you’re not ready to face the challenge of changing your habits yet. Maybe you need to suffer through another 30-day cleanse or try the latest 90-day workout plan to finally get it together.
But when you are ready for permanent change, Hacking Your Habits will be here waiting patiently for you.
Cheers to good health and take care,
99 Habits For Those Who Want it All
This FREE guide includes 99 action steps to get in shape, feel excited to start the day, and accomplish more in less time!
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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