Thursday, April 2, 2015

The truly desperate smoker

Cigarette smoking is notoriously addictive. Even though the negative consequences of this smelly habit (lung cancer, oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cardiovascular disease, among other things) have been known for a long time - and mandatory health warnings are now placed on cigarette packets in many countries - smokers still find it very hard to quit. However, one nicotine-addicted cancer survivor really took things to the extreme. Despite having had his larynx removed four years earlier because of a malignant tumor, this 48-year-old man managed to continue with his cigarette habit, using the tracheal stoma to inhale smoke. Telltale yellow staining under his chin (right) alerted his doctors.

Sticking cigarettes into a post-laryngectomy hole in one's neck in order to get that daily nicotine fix sounds so drastic it's almost bizarre. However, this is typical behavior for someone whose cravings are totally out of control, like eating French fries while being 150 pounds overweight, or sinking deeper and deeper into debt because of compulsive shopping, or drinking a bottle of vodka a day when you already have alcoholic liver disease. Addiction - any addiction - is a beast. Seek professional help before it's too late.

BMJ. 2004 Oct 9; 329(7470): 866.  

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