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Alcohol and Cigarettes, Two Habits One Can Do Without

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My greatest wish is for all to have the best health possible. As one who has faced many health challenges over the past 20 years, I know and appreciate the importance of good health.

While I have never asked, “why me”, I have often wondered just how someone who has never been a drinker, nor a smoker could have been hit with such devastating health issues. Obviously, there are many other factors that contribute to or detract from one’s health. But it is clear that these two aforementioned vices, which, when they become habitual, can be detrimental to one’s health.

I have seen many doctors and each has asked me, “Do you drink? Do you smoke?” My reply has always been, no. I have said to them, if I knew I was going to be in the shape I’m in now, I would have started drinking and smoking a long time ago.

That’s only a joke. The reality is that if I had been a drinker or smoker, I’d probably be a lot worse off than I am now. Those habits have their consequences and they aren’t pretty. Not that everyone suffers acute, debilitating illness as a result of their consumption of alcohol and/or cigarette smoke, but it is undeniable that these two activities, consumed beyond moderation adversely affect the health of those who take them to excess.

Smoking, we know, can cause cancer. But there are other serious ailments that are brought on or exacerbated by smoking. Smoking related diseases cause an estimated 440,000 deaths per year in America. And if that isn’t enough to discourage one from picking up the habit, consider this: a 2004 Study by the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion found that cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.

Those two items alone ought to be enough for one to swear off cigarette smoke for life. When it comes to alcohol the outcomes of drinking too much aren’t much prettier.
•    Heavy drinkers are ten times more likely to get cancer than those who drink moderately or not at all.
•    Heavy drinking can also cause brain damage, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, an enlarged heart, and diseases of the liver and pancreas.
•    Alcohol and drug abuse cost the American economy an estimated 276 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures, crime, motor vehicle crashes and other conditions.

While genes play a role in transmitting the disease, other factors such as lifestyle and stress contribute to a person's risk of becoming an alcoholic. And we know that there are a lot of stressors out there. But falling into the trap of alcohol relief is not the way to address stress-related problems. The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you are having problems with stress, you should seek help from family members and or friends. Help is available through health care professionals and hotlines.

Alcoholism affects every race and culture. The rate of binge alcohol use was lowest among Asians (11.0 percent). Rates for other racial/ethnic groups were 19.0 percent for Blacks, 23.6 percent for Whites, 24.2 percent for Hispanics, 29.6 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, and 29.8 percent for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders.

The U.S Department of Human and Human Services (DHSS) has called alcohol the most abused drug in the United States.
And one final note on the subject, when alcohol and tobacco are used in combination, the effect of each is heightened.

I hope this serves as a bit of help to those who may be struggling with either or both of these issues. A little enlightenment goes a long way.

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Eric Von is a former radio talk show host and a publisher of Brain Brawn & Body ( You can contact Eric at


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Guest Tuesday, 23 January 2018