LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Smoking is the number one preventable cause of illness in the United States, yet one in four men and one in five women light up daily. In this Healthcast, a serious look at the lifelong effects of smoking and what led one woman to finally kick the habit.
For 35 years of her life, Carolyn Dartez was a chain smoker. "You know, we all smoked," says Dartez, "you grew up and that was going to be the thing...you were gonna smoke a cigarette - it was a challenge to see if you could do it."
When Dartez smoked her first cigarette at the age of 14, it was something that was common for her generation. But, the medical implications were not known at the time and people got hooked...fast. "A cigarette in your hand," says Dartez, "it was like you smoke, you eat, you do everything with a cigarette in your hand and I did."
It wasn't until Dartez got into her 50's that the years of smoking caught up to her. "Having pneumonia, a lot of asthma, a lot of bronchitis," says Dartez.
Like many other smokers, Dartez began seeing a pulmonologist. Dr. Gary Kohler with Pulmonary Associates at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital says, "The vast majority of patients I see are directly related to smoking-related illnesses."
Dr. Kohler on staff with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital says more than 50 percent of smokers will at some time face cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cerebral vascular disease. But by putting out the cigarette today, you instantly reduce your risks. "You can't get back the damage that's done," says Dr. Kohler, "but you can stop injuring your lungs at that point to where the decline in pulmonary function is the same as people that never smoked, which is an age-related process."
For Dartez, her decision to stop smoking came as an eye-opener. "The doctor told me that if I didn't stop smoking that the cigarettes were going to kill me," says Dartez, "it was just that simple and I preferred life, I didn't want to die, so I quit smoking."
That was 15 years ago, and Dartez has not picked up another cigarette. "You just have to put your mind to it. You want to live, you have things to live for," says Dartez, "you have to quit smoking, smoking is not good for you."