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Some Doctors Refuse to Treat Smokers

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Mindful of smoking's negative impact on surgical outcomes and wary of liability, some doctors are refusing to operate on patients unless they quit smoking, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported May 24.

Samantha Land, 42, was refused a facelift unless she quit smoking for at least six months. “I don't think it's right,” she said. “It's my choice.”

But surgeon Stephen Levine, M.D., said that he would not perform any kind of elective surgery on a smoker. “One cigarette decreases the blood flow to the legs by 30 percent for one hour,” Levine said. “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, you will have chronic low blood flow. Under those circumstances, nothing's going to heal.”

“You can look at someone who has been smoking who has an incision and tell,” added plastic surgeon Carl Lentz. “The skin has a different color. The wound edges look different. You can see it in the skin — it cuts the blood supply off.”

Not all doctors agree that smokers should be treated differently than other patients, however. “A true physician tries to see behind the flaw and what they need to improve their health,” said Rebecca Peck, a primary-care doctor. “Are you going to take the next high-risk complication and say the same thing? About fat people?”

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