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Greater Living Live Discusses Lung Health

November 14, 2018
While the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes has decreased significantly in the U.S., especially for teens and young adults, there are still 30 million people in this country who do smoke. Though cigarette use is less common, vaping or the use of e-cigarettes has grown quickly. And it’s the habit of choice among teens and young adults, even ones as young as middle school age. Dr. Kevin Ferentz, Chairman of Family Medicine at GBMC Health Partners, shared his 35 years’ experience helping people quit smoking and his concerns about the rise of vaping with Mary Beth Marsden.

“Cigarette smoking is the most important cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.,” he explained. “Half a million people die in this country each year because of cigarette smoking, which adversely affects every organ system in the body. And though some people claim vaping is a safer alternative, the truth is we just don’t know. There’s no data and the production of vaping devices and liquids is completely unregulated by the FDA and the EPA. We don’t know what’s in these liquids and many devices contain lead, which can be inhaled when the device is heated. We do know that carcinogens are found in the urine of people who vape and that e-cigarettes are frequently an entry into cigarette smoking for teens.”

To get people to quit smoking or vaping, Dr. Ferentz focuses on the positive effects of quitting, including decreasing the risk of lung cancer, COPD, and other lung diseases and saving more than $2,300 per year if you’re a pack a day smoker. He emphasized that the people who are most successful at quitting are those who take the time to prepare by writing down why they want to quit, identifying their smoking triggers, and telling everyone they’re quitting so they’re held accountable.

He also dispelled that myth that quitting smoking means putting on a lot of weight and that medications that help you quit don’t work or are too risky. “Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your body,” he added. “Minutes after you quit, your risk of a heart attack decreases. And 15 years after quitting, your risk of dying is the same as people who have never smoked.”

Dr. Robin Motter-Mast, Medical Director of Primary Care and Population Health at GBMC, discussed lung cancer screening for people at high risk. “85% of people who smoke have the potential to develop lung cancer,” she said. “It’s the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. But screening people at high risk can help us catch the cancer earlier and reduce the number of lung cancer deaths.”

People at high risk are those between the ages of 55 and 80 who smoked for more than 30 pack years (1 pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, for example), as well as current smokers and people who have smoked within the last 15 years. She noted, however, that before starting screening, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of being screened with your primary care physician.

Dr. Motter-Mast also talked about COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is often related to cigarette smoking. “The best way for most people to lower their risk of lung cancer and COPD is never to start smoking or to quit today,” she urged.
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