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Smoking and Bone Healing

Years ago, I owned a construction company building grain bins in North & South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. Some of my employees smoked cigarettes. I made the request that they wouldn’t smoke inside the enclosed space for the sake of my health. One day, we were discussing the health risks associated with the habit. It shocked me that they believed that smoking doesn’t harm you. I didn’t have all of the medical knowledge that I do now, but to doubt the surgeon general’s warning is quite the academic leap of faith. I could see that arguing about it wasn’t going anywhere. The surgeon general of the United States must not know anything! In part this post is for them as I have made my argument more concise as I’ve seen more first-hand encounters demonstrating the ill-effects of this hard to kick habit.

Smoking does affect your health. Smoking is associated with heart disease, blood vessel disease (such as peripheral vascular disease, and has been implicated with the development of deep vein thromboses. One way that I didn’t think of at the time is the effect that smoking has on bone health and bone healing.

Recent Research on Healing:

Researchers studied the healing rate of individuals after infected bone had been removed from the tibia and stabilized with an external frame on the leg. Doctors found that current smokers and those with a history of smokers were significantly slower to grow new bone to fill the defect that remained after the original surgery. Their conclusion was that non-smokers healed much faster than smokers. Nicotine from cigarette smoke, decreases the oxygen levels in the body and oxygen is needed for healing wounds, broken bones, and other physiological processes. (1),(2)

Bone Science

Other thoughts on health and smoking:

My experience while rotating on the Vascular Surgery service demonstrated the powerful effect that smoking had on the health of the blood vessels. Major artery bypass surgeries are performed each year due to the deposits in the arteries. Limbs are lost, and amputations are performed simply because smoking is bad for your health.

I will admit, some people are able to defy the odds and live MUCH longer than those who smoke.

I look at it this way: consider your vehicle’s owner’s manual and how it tells you to change the oil or transmission fluid on regular intervals. Similarly, when medical advice says to stop smoking cigarettes, that the current health path is not one of longevity for the vast majority of people and that somehow exposure of smoke will increase health.

Smoking Effects

Dust vs. Smoke

For the mechanics out there. You can think of your lungs as the air intake system in a car, as well as the filter for the body. But, this is a filter that you have only one of and you have it for the life of your vehicle; no changing it every 3,000 miles. Smoking cigarettes deposits “gunk” much like driving on a dirt road would plug an air filter.