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Surgeon General: Any Exposure to Tobacco Smoke Can Damage DNA Immediately, Lead to Illness

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Tobacco smoke causes immediate damage at the lowest levels of use and cigarettes are designed to be addictive, according to the 30th tobacco-related report of the U.S. Surgeon General, the Washington Post reported Dec. 9.

The 704-page report, the first on tobacco from current Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., stated that hundreds of more than 7,000 compounds in tobacco smoke are toxic, at least 70 of the compounds cause cancer, and no level of exposure to tobacco smoke is safe.

The lining of the lungs becomes inflamed upon first exposure to cigarette smoke, and the smoke can cause diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Heart disease is another common effect of cigarette smoke, including exposure to secondhand smoke, and diabetics who smoke may have more difficulty in controlling blood sugar.

“The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately,” said Benjamin. “Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

Furthermore, cigarettes were designed to be addictive. Today, more than ever, according to the report, cigarettes deliver nicotine to the user more quickly and effectively than was the case years ago.

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement that the report “sends an unmistakable message to elected officials at all levels that reducing smoking is one of the most effective actions we can take to improve the nation’s health and prevent some of the most deadly and costly diseases in our society.”

“This report makes it clear — quitting at any time gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking,” the Surgeon General said. “It’s never too late to quit, but the sooner you do it, the better.”

The full report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease, was published on the Office of the Surgeon General website.

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