I knew I should not have quit smoking!

Well, it has been a while now without my cigarettes; nearly three weeks. To be honest, the worst bit is now over and I am starting to sleep better. I can even have an extra twenty minutes in bed as I don't have my morning cigs to consume.

I was going to do a post on the various health benefits that will gradually come to me the longer I give up, but to be honest it is very simple: from the moment you stop you are less likely to die; increasingly so the longer you give up. I'm even less likely to have a car crash!

As a medical student it was a dream question to get in an exam: 'smoking increases the risk of illness X, true or false?' Instead of the usual 50:50 guess I was usually forced to make, even I knew to go for true. Always on the look out for doing as little study as possible, it quickly occurred to me that the best strategy was to learn the conditions smoking reduced your risk of (a very small list), forget the conditions smoking has never been found to have an effect on, and---hey presto---one small step towards my medical degree.

Now before we start on the possible 'health benefits' of smoking let me be clear: IT IS BAD FOR YOU. I am guilty in the past of quoting these conditions as if they were a justification for smoking; they arn't. Even if you have the condition the risks you get from the cigarettes outweigh the benefit. But, in the interests of science and lazy medical students, here we go.

Smoking reduces risk of having knee replacement surgery. Most of the effect was due to smoking having an appetite-suppressing effect. Smokers are less likely to be severely obese, which is a major risk factor for such surgery. Another big risk factor is running a lot and as a recent ex-smoker I don't need to read the statistics to know smokers don't generally do much of that. There was still a small effect not explained by exercise, weight and other control factors, a very small effect. Also if you are a smoker and have to have the surgery your results are worse.

There are also studies showing better survival from some types of heart attack. Others show improved response to some treatments, such as drugs to unblock the arteries. Before you all light up most of the effect was due to smokers having their heart attacks much younger when they have less general health problems. This is clearly not a good thing.

Reduced risk of Parkinson's disease, this is a well researched finding in a number of studies and the classic trick question at medical school. Again the message here is not to develop a 40 a day habit but rather that there may be something for medical science to look into to develop safe treatments.

So there you go, you may safely assume that smoking probably makes every other illness more likely or worse!