Cigarette Smokers Don’t Get Hit By Buses


  • Smoking causes or worsens deadly chronic cardiovascular diseases such as abdominal aortic aneurysms and type II diabetes
  • The CDC estimates that 43.8 million people over age 18 smoke, 19% of which are black
  • Smoking-related and secondhand smoke-related illnesses cost the health care system ~$96B, the tobacco industry spends $8B per year in advertising
  • Less than 200 people died from being hit by a motor vehicle in 2011 but 440,000 people die from smoking and secondhand smoke-related illnesses per year

When I was younger I used to try to convince smokers to quit. My three best arguments were it causes cancer, it makes you look older and it stinks. This was invariably met with the common rebuttal of “I can get hit by a bus tomorrow”. I never really had a cogent come back to that other than “what if you don’t?” I stopped trying to convince people to quit smoking because it’s an addiction and like anyone who is addicted to anything they have to want to stop. I do, however, advocate for campaigns that are focused on preventing young adults\teenagers from ever starting.

I didn’t grow up around smokers but I’ve sure been exposed. Whenever I’m forced to walk through a cloud of toxic second-hand cigarette smoke I say to myself “where do their rights end and mine begin”. The only thing I can do is limit my exposure to people who insist on doing this to their bodies. I don’t date men who smoke. I thank the good Lord everyday that smoking has been banned in many bars and restaurants. As an asthmatic it was very difficult to enjoy myself while being forced to inhale the toxins not just from the cigarettes but from people’s lungs. When I was a teenager to my early 20’s I would always tolerate smokers in my proximity because I didn’t want to be rude. Then it dawned on me one day it’s not rude to ask someone to refrain or move so I don’t have to inhale something that can harm me.

For the last five years or so I have worked in the cardiovascular space of medical devices. I have observed countless surgeries trying to repair vascular damage from Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), Diabetes, and smoking. Most of the people coming in are overweight and have a history of smoking. Abdominal aortic aneurysms, also known as AAA, (a bulge or sac in the aorta where blood pools) are primarily caused by smoking. AAA are virtually undetectable and often have no symptoms. If it ruptures you have about 15-20 minutes to seek immediate medical attention before the worst case scenario occurs. This disease is often referred to as the silent killer because it is often found by accident during an ultrasound or examination for a different complaint. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why smoking has this impact on the aorta or other major arteries. When you couple smoking with a poor diet or diabetes or sedentary lifestyle or all of the above your arteries can’t take the load. Your body isn’t capable of eliminating all of those toxins on a daily basis.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, estimates that ~43.8 million people above the age of 18 are smokers. Blacks make up about 19% of smokers, on par with whites, with American Indians leading the country at 31.5%. How can you blame them? The tobacco industry in 2011 spent $8.37 billion or $23 million PER DAY. However it costs the US healthcare system much more. Between 2000-2004 cigarette smoking cost upwards of $193 billion including $96 billion in health care expenditures. That was 10 years ago. In 2005 the cost of secondhand smoke was more than $10 billion due to health care expenditures, morbidity and mortality.

Smoking is responsible for about 440,000 deaths per year (including 49,000 from secondhand smoke) which is more than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incident combined. Compare that to the less than 200 people in 2011 who died from being hit by a vehicle. Now when someone tells me that they can get hit by a bus tomorrow I say “smokers don’t get hit by buses, they get sick, they get others sick and society pays the cost. You have a statistically higher chance of dying from smoking-related illness than being hit by any motor vehicle”.

The good news is 62% of smokers want to quit and 52% have attempted to quit. If you smoke get yourself into a cessation program and don’t let me see you in the operating room one day.



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