To the editor:
As an orthopedic surgeon, I am writing to urge New York state legislators to continue funding the Tobacco Control Program. My patients' health and well-being is on the line when they use tobacco, and I believe we need all the assistance we can get to fight this war against the tobacco industry. The North Country Tobacco Cessation Center, funded by New York state's Tobacco Control Program, offers invaluable assistance to health care providers; they provide tools and resources needed to be effective.
I see firsthand how tobacco use creates complications for my patients before and after surgery. Cigarette smoke contains poisons that put your heart at risk. Inhaling carbon monoxide, which is present in cigarette smoke, reduces the amount of oxygen that blood carries to your heart and other vital organs. A decreased amount of oxygen to the site of surgery makes it more difficult for the body to heal and increases risk of infection. In addition, smoking damages a patient's lungs, and smokers are at a greater risk of having breathing problems after anesthesia as a result.
Ideally, people that need surgery should stop smoking six to eight weeks before. This will give the body time to become stronger and increase chances of a quick recovery. Also, stopping smoking will make the hospital stay more comfortable, as no smoking is allowed there, and will improve your health overall.
When you stop smoking, your body begins to heal. Six months after quitting, lung functions improve by 10 percent. After one year, the risk of having a heart attack drops by 50 percent.
If you are a tobacco user, the best thing you can do is to quit. Consider seeing your health care provider and learn how to quit. He/she has the tools to help you quit successfully. Or call the New York state Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NYQUITS (1-866-697-8487). This is a free confidential service to help you become smoke-free.
Dr. Marco Berard
Alice Hyde Medical Center