Health Nicotine addiction

Smoking shortens life by six to seven years

Smokers Smokers

Smoking increases the risk of many diseases: from lung cancer to heart attacks to rheumatism

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Every year, 127,000 people die as a result of tobacco consumption. While most people are aware of the increased risk of lung cancer, only a few have any idea what other diseases are fuelled by cigarette addiction. And how much they could save if they gave it up.

NAfter the last cigarette, smokers have a lot of hard work to do: There are many hurdles to overcome before they can successfully quit smoking – from withdrawal symptoms to the “inner demon”. On World No Tobacco Day on Friday, here’s an overview of why quitting smoking is still worthwhile:

What risks are reduced by quitting smoking?

If you keep your hands off cigarettes, you generally reduce your risk of a variety of diseases. Smoking is directly responsible for around a fifth of all cancers, but heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and chronic bronchitis can also often be traced back to smoking. For example, smokers have a 65 percent higher risk of a heart attack than non-smokers.

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Every year, around 127,000 people in Germany die as a result of tobacco consumption, around a third of which are due to cardiovascular disease. In addition, 85,000 people develop cancer every year as a result of smoking. People who smoke or have smoked also have a much higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammation of the joints. Smoking also damages the eyes, teeth, digestive tract and affects fertility.

What are the concrete benefits of waiving this?

According to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the function of the respiratory tract improves just three days after the last cigarette. After a week, blood pressure drops and with it the risk of heart attack. After one to nine months, coughing fits, blocked sinuses and shortness of breath decrease. The lungs are gradually cleansed by the breakdown of mucus. The risk of infection is reduced.

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Two years after quitting smoking, a former smoker has almost the same risk of cardiovascular disease as a non-smoker. If you have been smoke-free for five years, your risk of heart attack is the same as that of a non-smoker. After five years, the risk of cancer in the oral cavity, throat, esophagus and bladder is also halved. The risk of stroke can also fall to that of a non-smoker after just two to five years.

What about the dreaded lung cancer?

Up to 85 percent of lung cancer deaths can be attributed to tobacco consumption – for no other type of cancer can quitting smoking prevent so many deaths. Ten years after quitting, a former smoker has only half the risk of lung cancer as if he had continued smoking permanently.

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Cancer statistics show a different picture: while the number of lung cancer cases in men has been falling slightly for several years, it is increasing in women. Experts attribute this to changes in smoking habits. In recent decades, more and more women have smoked, while the number of male smokers has fallen.

How does quitting smoking affect life expectancy?

According to DKFZ calculations, heavy smoking shortens life expectancy by an average of ten years. German insurers estimate that the average life expectancy is six to seven years shorter. The worst case scenario is an obese heavy smoker who drinks a lot of alcohol and eats a lot of red meat – he loses around 17 years in life expectancy compared to his male counterparts who live a particularly healthy lifestyle. For a woman, the difference is almost 14 years.

Is there a risk of weight gain?

Studies have shown that former smokers gain an average of two to four kilograms in the first few weeks after quitting. This is thought to be due to a slower metabolism and increased calorie intake after quitting smoking.

Nicotine speeds up the metabolic processes and “burns” around 200 additional calories a day. Nicotine also suppresses the appetite. After quitting smoking, the body burns less energy, and at the same time many people reach for sweets and snacks instead of cigarettes. A certain genetic predisposition may also increase the risk of weight gain.

How much can you save by quitting smoking?

The savings potential should not be underestimated. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, the total costs add up to more than 35,700 euros over ten years and a good 165,000 euros after 30 years, as a model calculation by the comparison portal Verivox shows. If smokers were to invest this money in an ETF savings plan instead of cigarettes, for example, they could save more than 400,000 euros in 30 years.

Are e-cigarettes an alternative?

Experts say clearly no. According to the DKFZ, e-inhalers are probably somewhat less harmful than smoking tobacco because the liquids are not burned but heated. However, they are still a health hazard.

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According to the German Medical Association, the nicotine contained in most of these products can have a negative impact on brain development and can be addictive. In addition, e-cigarettes, which are also popular with children and young people, contain carcinogenic substances and can attack the respiratory organs and the cardiovascular system. The risk of switching to tobacco cigarettes later on is three times higher for young e-cigarette users than for their abstinent peers.