Cigarette smoking causes nearly half a million deaths in the U.S. every single year. That's more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. A decision to quit could save a life. That was the case with Brian, a former smoker. By the time I was 10 or 11 I was smoking probably close to a pack a day. I enlisted in the military, within the year I probably met my future wife. Travel all over Europe. Until I had my heart attack when I was 35. So I went from being able to travel the world to confining my life either at home or going to doctors. I had a bypass operation. Then my lungs started going bad that I had to be on oxygen. Then I had stints put in, it's all because of cigarettes. When I had my first run for heart transplant, and they gave me the pager. They said "Okay, you're on the transplant list". And that evening the doctor called up and said "Brian, we found nicotine in your blood "and you need to give me back the pager." That was crushing. I realized if I'm going to live I better get rid of these cigarettes give myself a chance.
I stopped smoking, so I called my cardiologist and we started the process again and I finally got the call. They said "Brian we have a new heart for you." It was quite an experience. Brian is in our audience today, living proof there is hope after cigarette addiction. Brian congratulations on being able to call yourself a former smoker. Really awesome and we know addiction to nicotine can be very hard to overcome and research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin or even cocaine. This is partly why in the United States more people are addicted to nicotine than any other drug. And it is important to realize cigarette smoking damages nearly every part of the body and can cause cancer almost any where. Not just your lungs as many people may think.
It can also cause cardiovascular disease and diabetes and I understand you want to help others quit. It's why your part of a campaign that is raising awareness about the serious long term health effects of smoking. So tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, I'm part of the CDC's Tips From Former Smokers Campaign, where regular people like me are profiled and share our experiences of life with damage caused by tobacco and smoking. I smoked over 40 years and if I can quit smoking, you can quit smoking. There really is life after cigarettes. And this campaign is not just for smokers, it also urges non-smokers to avoid exposure to second hand smoke which increases the chances of getting lung cancer by 20-30% and can cause strokes and heart disease as well. And in children, second hand smoke increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Respiratory Infections, Middle Ear Disease, and more severe and frequent Asthma attacks among those who already suffer from Asthma. And Drew a lot of people forget this, but smoking not only effects the smoker, as you saw with Brian the caregiver is also affected.
He wasn't the only one who was no longer able to appreciate the world, neither could his wife at that time. When you're ready to quit smoking, have a plan in place for when you feel tempted to smoke. Maybe take a walk, chew on some cinnamon sticks, carrots, pickles, apples, or celery. Anything to keep your mouth busy, these tactics can help stop that psychological urge or need to smoke. The urge will pass. Don't give into it, but if you do never stop trying to quit. You know you can ask your doctor about nicotine gum, the patch, or medication and there is also non-nicotine medications which can also help with the cravings and may increase your chances of success and quitting smoking.