The American Cancer Society states, “Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most deadly source of avoidable loss of life in the United States and the world. Smoking-related diseases cause an estimated 440,000 American deaths each year. Smoking costs the United States over $150 billion annually in health care costs. Smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined. Women account for 39 percent of all smoking deaths.”
Smoking popularity in the 50s
Many elderly residents (65 years and older) grew up during an era when smoking was socially acceptable and fashionable. Cigarette commercials were rampant both on TV and on radio. The public was constantly inundated with Tobacco Company marketing on billboards, magazines, and in daily newspapers. Nearly every public medium promoted smoking during that period, prompting numerous American’s manipulated by the tobacco industry to engage in the detrimental practice of smoking cigarettes. In consequence, today’s aging adults fettered by nicotine addiction have been smoking for most of their adult lives.
Television viewers back in the 50s witnessed actors of weekly sitcom and drama programs promoting the show’s sponsoring cigarette brand during commercial breaks. The following link features Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from the 1950s sitcom, I Love Lucy, promoting the preferred brand of Phillip Morris cigarettes.
Note-Many of Miami’s Cuban population embraced the Lucy Show, as Arnaz was a talented musician and actor who was born and raised in Cuba. Regrettably, Desi Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986.
Research findings on elderly smokers
According to a study released in the American Academy of Neurology, elderly smokers may lose their cognitive abilities, such as remembering, thinking or perceiving, more rapidly than elderly non-smokers The study determined that cognitive decline in non-demented elderly is pervasive in current smokers, but less pronounced in former smokers, according to researchers at the Erasmus University Medical School in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Research coordinator Lenore Launer, PhD, states, “when comparing yearly cognitive change, we found current smokers had a significantly larger decline than people who stopped smoking and people who never smoked. We adjusted for important factors that might also affect cognitive function, such as age, education and history of stroke.”
“Smoking may damage cerebral functioning by silent small strokes that are not clinically detected. If this is so, then a portion of the former smokers has similar cognitive damage as the current smokers,” Launer said. “It is also possible that the cognitive test we use is not sensitive enough to pick up more subtle differences in cognition that might exist between former and never smokers.”
According to the American Cancer Society, “Tobacco use is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States. Because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors — activities that people choose to do — smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society.”
Countless studies have confirmed the many health risks associated with smoking. These results suggest that smoking may increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and cerebral disease that affects cognitive functioning.
If you smoke, it may be time to consider breaking the habit. You can download the American Heart Association’s pamphlet on “How do I quit Smoking” on their website at, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3004837
Kenneth W. Hallcom, Ph.D.