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For Release: Dec. 17, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Major Report Details How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease

Every exposure to tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase risks for heart attack and stroke, according to the recently released U.S. Surgeon General’s Report How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. State health officials urge all smokers to quit for the New Year.

“Everyone knows smoking is deadly, but this report provides new biological evidence on exactly how tobacco smoke causes harm,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. The new Surgeon General’s report concludes that:

• Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer.
• Every exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer.
• Exposure to secondhand smoke has an immediate adverse impact on the cardiovascular system, damaging blood vessels, making blood more likely to clot and increasing risks for heart attack and stroke.
• Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can cause miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  It also harms male fertility.

“Poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke travel quickly from the lungs into the blood, reaching every organ in the body,” said Robert McCaffree, MD, Regents Professor of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care at the OU College of Medicine. “Smoking alters blood chemistry and can lead to clots that block blood flow to the heart, brain, or legs. This can trigger heart attack or stroke. When nonsmokers breathe secondhand smoke, platelets in their blood get sticky and may form clots, much as they do in people who smoke. Even brief exposures can trigger a heart attack. Children breathing secondhand smoke may develop bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections,” he said.

The report also provides information on why smoking makes diabetes harder to control and how every cigarette smoked damages the lungs. “A decision to quit smoking for the New Year may save your life while protecting your family, friends and coworkers from secondhand smoke,” said Cline. “There will never be a better time to quit smoking.”

To receive free quit coaching and free nicotine patches or gum, call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Copies of the full report as well as an easy-to-ready guide may be downloaded at www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/tobaccosmoke/index.html.

Oklahoma Smoking Facts:
• About 6,200 Oklahomans die early each year from smoking.
• About 124,000 Oklahomans are suffering with a serious smoking-caused illness.
• Smoking costs Oklahomans about $2.8 billion each year in medical costs and lost worker productivity. This includes $218 million each year in state Medicaid costs.

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