July 5, 2021
The leading cause of cancer in the United States is tobacco use. There is an increased risk to nearly all types of cancer with smoking cigarettes, including several types that firefighters already have an increased risk of contracting. Beyond cancer, the risk factors for heart and chronic respiratory diseases are significantly increased.
The fire service has seen a downward trend in the number of firefighters smoking cigarettes. Sadly, there has not been a decline in smokeless tobacco use. Smokeless tobacco contains more than 25 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. There are over 70 chemicals in smoking cigarettes that are known to cause cancer. Add these chemicals in with the known carcinogens on the fireground, and the risk of firefighter related cancers grows exponentially.
Not only will quitting tobacco use at any age increase life expectancy, it reduces the risk of death from a cancer diagnosis as well as cardiovascular disease. After just one year of quitting, the risk of a heart attack drops significantly. After five years of quitting, the risk of several types of cancers drops by half.
Many health insurance companies charge a higher premium for smokers, but they may also cover smoking cessation treatments. For more information on how to quit smoking, go to www.smokefree.gov