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By Lauren McCoy

BATON ROUGE, LA – It is one of the most addictive habits, and for women, 15 in every 100 women do it according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“18 to 19 percent of adult men smoke, and about 14 to 15 percent of adult women smoke,” said Dr. Wesley Penn, an internist at the Baton Rouge Clinic. “Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances we can put in our body, and it stimulates multiple neurotransmitters in our brain, one of which stimulates the reward center in our brain. That’s the chemical side of it. The physical side of it is basically the habit of continuously putting something to your mouth, an oral fixation type of habit, which is also hard to break.”

In this week’s Women’s Wellness, I’m catching up with Dr. Wesley Penn, an internist here at the Baton Rouge Clinic, and we are talking about how you can kick the habit.

“Success comes from a combined approach of having patients have some form of counseling as well as replacing either nicotine or medication that stimulates receptors in the brain that nicotine acts on. So you have a duel approach,” explained Dr. Penn.

We have all heard people shouldn’t smoke, but why?

“Most people associate cigarette smoking with lung cancer and lung disease. A lot of people don’t necessarily realize that cigarette smoking actually affects every cell in our body and is not only associated with lung cancer, but also other cancers of our body, like pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, kidney cancer and even certain leukemia,” said Dr. Penn. “It contributes to stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even reduces our immune system. So, it affects our everyday ability to fight off certain infections.”

Specifically, in women, it can have some negative effects.

“Also, for women, it can contribute to cervical cancer as well as early bone disease, osteoporosis and early fractures. In women of child-bearing age, it makes it harder for women to get pregnant. It can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. In those patients that do have the baby, it can increase the risk of SIDS,” explained Dr. Penn.

However, it is not to late.

“You need to have goals, and you need to set a stop date. It’s important to have a stop date, and it’s important to tell people about that stop date because you need to not only be accountable to yourself, but also have other people be accountable,” said Dr. Penn. “It’s the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that people that don’t smoke have an increased lifespan of about 10 to 14 years compared to those people that do smoke. So, it definitely has long-lasting effects, but the good news is if you quit smoking now you can reduce those risks within the course of just a few years.”

If you are a smoker, and would like to quit, just head to the resources below:

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