We’re all gonna die. It is inevitable. Excluding accidents and genetic causes, the most common contributing factor to how we die is how we live and lifestyle choices. So when it comes to lifestyle choices, have you ever wondered which is worse? Smoking or alcohol? We’ll be looking at the statistics and effects of smoking and alcohol to evaluate if one is, in fact, worse than the other.
No matter how you slice it, inhaling any amount of cigarette smoke is bad for your health. A new meta-analysis study in the British Medical Journal found that smoking just one cigarette a day can drastically increase the risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. They found that men who had one cigarette per day had a 48% higher risk of heart disease and stroke. For women, the numbers are even grimmer. Women who smoke one cigarette per day have a 57% chance of heart disease and a 30% higher risk factor of stroke compared to non- smokers.
Although cutting down smoking has clear benefits (particularly for the risk of cancer), the reduction in cardiovascular disease risk is not as large as smokers would hope. Smokers need to quit completely (rather than cut down) if they wish to avoid most of the risks associated with heart disease and stroke, two of the most common and major disorders caused by smoking.
Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths annually, about 1300 deaths every single day in the United States. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
The tobacco epidemic is one of the largest, biggest health threats the world has ever faced. Tobacco kills up to half of its users, which is more than seven million people each year worldwide. More than six million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco intake while 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Around 80% of the world’s population live in low and middle-income countries where people are more likely to smoke.
If you’re a smoker, there is still hope. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking by almost 90%.
People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax. Alcohol often has a strong effect on people and throughout history, we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power over us. About 27% of people over the age of 18 have reported that they’ve engaged in binge drinking in the past month. 7% report that they’ve engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. Over 15 million adults over the age of 18 have some kind of alcohol-dependency problem. This includes 9.8 million men and 5.3 million females.
An estimated 88,000 people, approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women, die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third most preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical activity.
In 2012, 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributed to alcohol consumption. In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions. Most notably, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries such as motor vehicle accidents.
So, smoking is a worse vice than alcohol. No cigarette intake is safe, whereas science does show that alcohol intake, particularly red wine or darker beer, may be protective in extreme moderation. Drinking one to two drinks a day can be beneficial, but any more than that and it can be extremely problematic.
What happens if you smoke and drink?
Cigarettes and alcohol are often used together. Studies have found that people who smoke are much more likely to drink, and that people who drink are much more likely to smoke. Dependence on alcohol and tobacco is correlated. People who are dependent on alcohol are three times more likely than those in the general population to be smokers. People who are dependent on tobacco are four times more likely than the general population to be drinkers.
We all have vices. However, it is prudent to understand that some of your vices may leave serious impacts on your health. Quitting smoking and/or drinking in extreme moderation will help prolong your life. The good news is, there are options. You can reach out locally to organizations, societies, or your local physician to get help.
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I believe in the original meaning of the word doctor, ‘docere’, which means teacher. I’m here to help educate you on how to take care of yourself in ways that you may not have heard of before, but that are effective. I always want to hear your ideas and feedback so be sure to leave me comments below!