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Published on November 20, 2013

MU Health Care Doctors Warn of Dangers of Smoking

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Approximately 26 percent of adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, and up to 67 percent of children ages 5 and younger live in homes with at least one adult smoker, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

As part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 21, MU Health Care physicians are raising awareness about the harmful effects of smoking and are encouraging current smokers to stop.

“Second-hand smoke decreases lung efficiency and impairs lung function in children of all ages,” said David Chang, M.D., an ear, nose and throat physician at MU Health Care. “It can increase the frequency and severity of childhood asthma and can cause other severe respiratory problems. Second-hand smoke also can worsen ear infections and sinus functions in children.”

Ear, nose and throat issues caused by tobacco use — smoked, chewed or dipped — also include cancer of the lips, mouth, throat and voice box, chronic nasal inflammation, chronic cough, gum disease, and precancerous lesions of the mouth and throat.

Tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, are the leading cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the lip and mouth. In the head and neck region, squamous cell carcinoma most commonly occurs on the lip, floor or roof of the mouth, tongue and throat.

“This type of cancer is more common among individuals ages 50 and older,” Chang said. “Some of the symptoms include tender painful lesions, wounds or sores that won’t heal, a lump or thickened skin, a white or red patch, loose teeth or dentures, trouble chewing or swallowing, swelling of the jaw and sore throat.”

Chang recommends taking the following steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking:

  • If you currently smoke, make the commitment to stop. There are counseling and medical resources available to help.
  • To protect loved ones, make your home and car smoke-free places.
  • Make sure your children’s day-care facilities are smoke-free.
  • If your asthma or other respiratory conditions are triggered by smoke, stay away from places that allow smoking.

“When you stop smoking, the health benefits begin almost the moment you put the cigarette down,” Chang said. “Many of us have heard of the dangerous effects of smoking and second-hand smoke. Now it’s time to take steps to stop.”

For help to quit smoking, contact Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at (573) 884-1512. To make an appointment to see an ear, nose and throat doctor, call (573) 882-7903. For more information on the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, visit