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Brief, Slight Exposure to Smoke Can Still Cause Damage

Surgeon General's report explains how smallest exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm

THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Even very brief exposure to tobacco smoke may cause immediate damage that can have serious long-term consequences, according to a recently released Surgeon General's report, "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease."

The report is the 30th tobacco-related report issued by the Surgeon General since 1964. It describes the specific pathways by which tobacco smoke causes damage and leads to disease and death, and also addresses why it is so difficult for smokers to quit.

Of the 7,000-plus chemicals and compounds in tobacco smoke, hundreds are toxic and at least 70 are carcinogenic, with the potential to damage DNA in a way that can cause cancer at every exposure, according to the report. The report also explains that cellular damage and inflammation occur immediately and continual exposure hinders the body's self-healing abilities. The report says cigarettes are designed to be addictive, with attractive packaging and more efficient nicotine delivery than cigarettes of years past.

"This report makes it clear -- quitting at any time gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking," U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., said in a statement. "It's never too late to quit, but the sooner you do it, the better."

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