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Presidential address. Systemic effects of smoking.

Millions of people continue to smoke. Recent studies confirm the pioneering epidemiologic data that indicated that, despite the well-established effects on the lung, most of the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually result from extrapulmonary toxicity, particularly accelerated cardiac and vascular disease. As with lung cancer, abstention significantly reduces the risk, even after myocardial infarction or surgery for complications of vascular disease. Erythrocytosis, thrombocytosis, and leukocytosis, by increasing blood viscosity, aggravate ischemia. The neutrophils of smokers release excessive amounts of oxidants which damage tissue and antiproteases. Increased alveolar permeability enhances allergy. Lymphocytic suppressor cells increase, which leads to immunocompetence, increased infection, and cancer. Smokers lose weight and die at an earlier age, even after cancer chemotherapy and peptic ulcer surgery. Smoking prevents inhibition of gastric night acid secretion by histamine-blocking agents. Menopause occurs earlier and children are damaged in utero and after birth by passive smoking. Recent evidence indicates that nicotine releases endorphins, which account for the addiction. Surgeons need to do more to combat this menace. Many victims need professional assistance to stop the habit.

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