smokers

  1. Quit smoking -- or die trying?

    Nearly 70 percent of all smokers want to quit -- and half of them have tried and failed over the last year, according to new numbers from the CDC.

    Obviously, it ain't easy.

    But if there's anything worse for you than tobacco, it's when the meds that are supposed to help you kick the habit up your suicide and depression risk instead.

    And researchers say Chantix, the med most commonly given to smokers, has been found to do exactly that -- with one new analysis concluding that it'll boost your odds of suicide or severe depression by a stunning 800 percent.

    Not exactly the type of "quit" you're looking for -- but instead of warning smokers away from the med or even issuing a long-overdue recall for Chantix, the feds are actually defending it.

    In fact, the FDA says its own review of data from two studies finds no difference in hospitalization rates for psychiatric problems. So case closed -- go ahead and take your Chantix, smokers.

    But before you fill that prescription, read the fine print on that reassuring new message from the FDA -- because the agency admits it didn't bother to look at psychiatric incidents that didn't lead to hospitalization.

    In other words, a suicide victim found dead wouldn't count, nor would a seriously depressed person who's never hospitalized (and remember -- many depressed people never seek any help at all).

    You know what's even crazier than the fact that the FDA didn't consider non-hospitalizations? It's that the agency actually has that extra data... and didn't even bother to look at it!

    That's where the new study comes in, because researchers combed the FDA's own Adverse Event Reporting System and found 3,249 reports of serious self-injury or depression linked to anti-smoking products like meds and nicotine gum since 1998.

    Chantix was only on the market four of those 13 years... but was involved in a whopping 2,925 of those cases, or 90 percent of the total.

    Try to explain that one, FDA.

    Other studies have also made the connection between Chantix use and serious behavioral issues -- and not just suicide and depression. One found that Chantix users are 18 times more likely to be involved in violence than people who take other meds.

    Violence, I should point out, also generally doesn't lead to a hospitalization -- although it could certainly end in prison or even death.

    Bottom line here: Quitting smoking is a great goal -- and with the New Year fast approaching (already!), it's the one resolution you should put at the top of your list.

    But do it without meds.

  2. The fastest way to boost your health

    Close to 50 million Americans can dramatically reduce their death risk by making one simple change right now -- and it won't cost a cent. In fact, it'll save you thousands of dollars a year. Despite that fact, most people can't (or won't) make that one simple change.

    You may have guessed by now that I'm talking about smoking -- more specifically, quitting smoking.

    That might sound obvious to you -- but what's not as obvious is how quickly you could see those benefits.

    According to a recent study in the Lancet, quitting today could actually slash your risk of dying in just six months.

    Those benefits aren't just for the smokers. The researchers also found that the public bans on lighting up can also help protect entire communities in that same six-month window.

    In Scotland, for example, in the six months after a smoking ban took effect in 2006, there was a 17-percent drop in hospital admissions for acute coronary syndrome and a 6-percent drop in cardiac deaths outside of hospitals.

    Closer to home, a smoking ban in Helena, Montana, a few years back led to a 40-percent drop in admissions for acute coronary syndrome at one hospital within six months. Then, when that ban was suspended by a series of court cases, the
    numbers shot right back up.

    So the bottom line is that when people smoke, people die...and when they're forced to cut back, they live. And all it takes is six months.

    Since the benefits of dietary and lifestyle changes can take between one and three years to kick in, kicking butts is actually one of the fastest ways to boost your health.

    The latest numbers from Ohio point in the same direction. The state's health department says there was a 26-percent drop in ER visits for heart attacks after a public smoking ban took effect in 2007.

    And in 2009, U.S., Canadian, and European cities saw 17 percent fewer heart attacks in the year following a smoking ban, along with drops of between 26 percent and 36 percent over three years. (Read more here.)

    If all that inspires you to quit, be sure to do it without the help of antismoking meds. Those things can be even worse for you than smoking itself.

    The most commonly used med, Chantix, has been linked to violence, aggression, and suicide. In fact, one recent study found that the number of suicides among people who've taken it might be double what we've been led to believe.

    Chantix has even been found to up the odds of a heart attack.

    That's not how you save lives -- that's how you end them.

    Speaking of bad habits, keep reading for the latest numbers on soda.

  3. How to turn a harmless tumor into a deadly cancer

    Most prostate cancers don't need to be treated because the disease won't kill or even hurt most of the men who get it. But there's one group of men who have more to worry about than the rest of us -- because for them, prostate cancer really can carry deadly risk.
  4. How not to quit smoking

    A long list of risks just got even longer: The feds now say the anti-smoking drug Chantix can boost the odds of a heart attack.
  5. Grim new warnings for smokers

    In case you haven't gotten the message about smoking yet, images on the package will soon help you out.

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