1. Effects of smoking and tobacco residue

    Third-hand smoke damages DNA

    You don't have to be a smoker yourself to face the effects of risks smoking -- and you don't even have to inhale a cloud of secondhand smoke, either.

    Cigarettes leave behind a toxic residue that lingers long after the smoker and his cloud are gone. And now, new research of the effects of smoking shows how this residue could actually damage human DNA.

    And all you have to do is touch it.

    The residue is called THIRD-hand smoke. It's why smokers and their homes, cars, clothing, etc. all smell like smoke even if they're trying to quit and haven't lit up in weeks.

    This lingering smell is caused by something called tobacco-specific nitrosamine, and it contains some of the most dangerous carcinogenic compounds of the cigarette.

    Unlike smoke, which blows away, tobacco-specific nitrosamine can build up on surfaces -- and then you can inhale it in dust or absorb it through your skin when you touch it.

    And that's when you problems begin -- because in the new study, researchers found that the residue left over from chronic smoking can actually cause breaks in DNA strands and oxidative damage to the DNA.

    The problem with tobacco-specific nitrosamine is that it is notoriously difficult to get rid of. It can linger for months, or even years, after the smoker is gone, and it can't always be washed, vacuumed or even painted away.

    If you're an ex-smoker yourself, there's no inexpensive answer here to remove the effects of smoking from your home. Consider replacing the carpet, drapes and other coverings and have a professional come in to clean the walls before re-painting if you haven't done so already (especially if there are young children in your home).

    It might seem like a lot of work. But if you want the true benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle for yourself and your family, it's worth the effort and the expense.

  2. 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.

  3. A little tobacco... a lot of risk

    There's no such thing as a healthy smoking habit--and if you think a quick puff every now and then won't hurt you, it's time to get your head out of those tobacco clouds.
  4. Tobacco smoke: a cloud of allergens

    A new study finds that when asthmatic kids have less exposure to tobacco smoke, they have fewer flare-ups and spend less time in the emergency room.

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