The dangers of smoking have been highlighted in a dreadful way by the case of a Sai Kung man who has had his legs cut off. BUZZ won’t identify him without his permission. Mark, not his real name, is a nice gentle fellow who is friendly to everyone. His friends are in a state of shock. We had noticed the sharp decline in his health in recent months. Arms skin and bone, jaundice developing, dark circles around the eyes. Mark’s case is a stark warning:
IF YOU SMOKE, GIVE IT UP.
IF YOU CONTINUE TO SMOKE, DON’T CAUSE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO INHALE SECOND-HAND SMOKE. YOU ENDANGER THEM.
Mark appears to have contracted peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Nine out of 10 people suffering from this are current or former smokers. PAD narrows the arteries so blood cannot oxygenate the legs, causing necrosis, ulcers and bluish cold skin. According to the Mirror, one million people in the UK have PAD and 25 people a day are having their legs cut off.
Mark is a binary smoke-drinker. When he is smoking he has to drink, when he is drinking he has to smoke. Binary smoker-drinkers do this every day. They can’t stop inhaling regular nicotine fixes so they don’t exercise. It is a lethal combination. If you know about Mark’s professional background, it is obvious he is intelligent. But he has never been able to break the dangerous habit, mainly smoking, that has now left him in a wheelchair or perhaps on prosthetics.
PAD creeps up on most people. They do not show any symptoms for a long time. Then they present to a doctor complaining of pain in the legs while walking. The greatest risk factor leading to PAD is smoking. The risk rises with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Men and women are in equal danger. This writer remembers a New Zealand woman smoker who had her legs amputated.
The Centre of Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. says smokers are:
- 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer
- 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke
- More likely to develop cancer anywhere in the body
There is no excuse not to give up. The easiest way would appear to be Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Skin patches, chewing gum, lozenges, nasal spray and inhalers (the later two by prescription) can all help quitting smokers progressively lower their nicotine habit until they can stop for good. Also non-nicotine medicines such as bupropion and varenicline reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The Health Department runs a helpline for smokers 1833 183.
According to a 2015 survey 10.5 per cent of people in Hong Kong smoke, endangering themselves, like Mark. And risking the health of family and friends who inhale their smoke second-hand. Second-hand smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals (CDC again) hundreds of which are toxic and about 70 carcinogenic.
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