Why cutting back on smoking may be better for you than quitting cold turkey

The New Year’s resolution you may not need to make

’Tis the season—for New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight, of course, ranks No. 1 on many people’s resolution lists. But close on its heels is another health-driven ambition—to quit smoking.

I’ve addressed this topic in greater detail previously—at least in terms of cigarette smoking (refer back to the special report titled “The day science went UP IN SMOKE—and why the right amount of tobacco could actually be good for you,” which you received when you first subscribed to Insiders’ Cures). So, just a quick reminder that if you’ve resolved to quit smoking cigarettes, there is a way to make it easier on yourself.

While nobody should be smoking two packs per day (or even one, for that matter), there’s really no need to quit “cold turkey.” Instead, try simply cutting back to half-a-pack per day or less. Scientific evidence shows you’ll generally be just as healthy for it.

But I’ve received several questions from readers wondering about the potential effects of other forms of tobacco use. So today, let’s take a few minutes to look at those in a bit more detail. And I’ll tell you what the scientific research really has to say about the so-called “hazards” of tobacco.

Before cigarettes took center stage

It’s only during the past 100 years that cigarettes have become the common or typical form of consuming tobacco.

Down through history there have been many other means, including chewing tobacco (chaw), cigars, fumigants, pipes, snuff, and, believe it or not, even suppositories.

But no matter what the form, when it comes to tobacco use and health consequences it seems that science has taken a back seat to political public health agendas.

How that stogie may actually help you live longer

Back in 1989, I was one of the researchers involved in the largest study on health then available. And we observed that cigar and pipe smokers actually have lower rates of disease and mortality overall than do non-smokers. (That said, they do have a higher rate of oral cancers.)

But today, even the National Cancer Institute has come around. And in a monograph devoted to the subject of cigars, they’ve concluded that smoking two cigars or less per day is not associated with significant health risks.

uitting doesn’t give you a “get-out-of-lung-cancer-free” card

Back in November, I happened upon a radio program talking about a lung cancer vigil held in Albany, NY. And one of the most poignant lines of the broadcast came from a woman who said that lung cancer victims are seen to “have brought it on themselves.” All thanks to the myopic view—and social stigma—that smoking causes lung cancer.

But I’ve always said there is a lot more to lung cancer than just cigarette smoking. And indeed, a full 80 percent of people who come down with lung cancer today are former smokers or those who never smoked.

So, what does the government have to say to non-smokers and former smokers about lung cancer? Precious little—due their politically misguided policy decision 25 years ago to put lung cancer research funding primarily into smoking prevention and cessation programs.

Thus, little or no progress has been made in understanding genetic and other risk factors involved in lung cancer—or potential treatments. While the government pours small fortunes into research on breast cancer and colon cancer, for example, lung cancer—the third most common cancer today—is woefully neglected. The victims have been abandoned. And they get little or no attention from “races for the cure” and other PR stunts.

If the NIH had stuck with science instead of social engineering we would be able to offer something more to those suffering from lung cancer—other than saying “I told you so.”