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Help me understand why you use tobacco

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Darcy Swaim
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Medical Group
Let's be fair, you probably would have a hard time finding five people who truly don't know how bad tobacco, in any form, is for you. I asked 10 current active smokers what health risks are associated with smoking or using smokeless tobacco. All of them were able to state at least five major health risks they face because of their tobacco use. So, again I ask, why do you use tobacco?

First, let's define what the Air Force has identified as a tobacco product.  According to AFI40-102, 1.2, it is any product that may be configured to deliver nicotine, including by not limited to, cigars; cigarettes; electronic cigarettes; stem pipes; water pipes; hookahs; vaporizers; smokeless products that are chewed, dipped, sniffed, or "vaped"; and any other nicotine delivery system that the Food and Drug Administration defines a tobacco product. That's a clear and definitive list.

I always ask the question, why do people smoke or chew tobacco? What makes people completely disregard the risk and still light up or chew? The most common answer I hear is that "it relaxes me when I'm stressed."  Hmm-so I wondered if there is any science to that relaxation claim. A relaxed person will have a lower blood pressure. So, does smoking lower ones blood pressure?

Factual research shows that each cigarette a person smokes will temporarily increase your blood pressure.  Moreover, smoking will cause fatty substances in the blood to buildup in the arteries.  Without using all the medical jargon, it means that cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart attacks. 

In addition to significantly increasing your risk of a heart attack, smoking makes you four times more likely to have a stroke. Men and women are 25 times more likely to developing lung cancer. Just imagine if you are sitting at a four way stop and you are the only one using tobacco. Out of those four people, you will be the one most likely to get lung cancer.

There are so many more reasons a person should not use tobacco products, of which there is not enough room in this commentary for me to list. Smoking causes more horrific deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicles injuries and firearm-related incidents, COMBINED!!! You know the risk. So, again I ask, why do you use tobacco? For more support to quit using tobacco visit