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Smokers know serious health risks, yet continue to light up, study finds

Tom Thompson of Deerfield Beach opens a pack of cigarettes on July 9, 2021.jpg
Posted at 5:19 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 06:25:41-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and is responsible for 440,000 deaths every year.

But what does that actually mean to someone who smokes, and does it matter to them?

A new report studied that question for five years, and the American Heart Association wants these results out there to hopefully get more people to quit.

Even though he's knows it could lead to serious health problems, Tom Thompson of Deerfield Beach said he's not putting down the pack anytime soon.

"I know it's bad. I know how it's affecting my health," Thompson said.

New study results released in June by the American Heart Association Journal show Thompson isn't alone, not by a long shot.

The study looked at the same group of smokers for five years. It showed a majority know what they're doing and continue to do it.

A little more than 2,600 people took part in the study, and 95% of them knew that smoking could cause a heart attack or cardiovascular disease. And out of that, 30% continued to smoke despite the odds against them.

There are, of course, challenges this study shines a light on. Smoking is really hard to quit.

"I think that it goes down to the chemical issue," said Dr. Ravi Nagraj of Genesis Community Health in Boca Raton. "Nicotine is unfortunately a very good drug at affecting the brain and making people want to continue getting nicotine. I think it's important to know that, acknowledge that, so patients know it's not a personal failure."

A tough road Thompson sees ahead.

"So I just went, the heck with it, I'll just keep smoking for now," Thompson said.

A pack-a-day smoker spends about $2,100 a year on cigarettes.

And if you think vaping is a safer alternative, the American Heart Association said long-term studies are just starting up now to show that's not necessarily true either.

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