It is a universally accepted fact that smoking cigarettes or tobacco is detrimental to your health. There is an endless list of health problems that are directly caused or affected by smoking, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and emphysema.
Short-term effects of smoking include a significant increase in heart rate and a drop in skin temperature. Respiration rate is also increased. In novice smokers, diarrhea and vomiting may occur. Although the central nervous system is, in fact, stimulated by smoking, smokers usually feel it relaxes them. Long-term effects are mainly on the bronchiopulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer (related to 90% of all lung cancer cases). Other factors, notably industrial carcinogens may be involved, especially among smokers. An average smoker is ten times more likely to get lung cancer than in a nonsmoker. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths. It is also associated with cancers of the mouth, throat, colon, pancreas, bladder, kidneys, stomach, and cervix, and related to 75% of chronic bronchitis cases and 80% of emphysema cases.
Tobacco also affects the digestive system. Gastric and duodenal (the upper section of the small intestine) ulcers are twice as common and twice as likely to cause death in smokers as in nonsmokers. Skin wounds may heal less quickly in smokers, partly because smoking depletes the body of vitamin C. Smokers may also have less effective immune systems than nonsmokers.
Tobacco use is associated with 25% to 30% of all cardiovascular disease. Smokers have a 70% higher rate of coronary heart disease than nonsmokers, nearly twice the risk of heart attack, and five times the risk of stroke.
Tobacco use can lead to physical and psychological dependence on nicotine, particularly in cigarette smokers. The United States Surgeon General’s 1988 report states that “cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are just as addicting as heroin and cocaine.”
People who are physically dependent on tobacco suffer a withdrawal reaction when they stop using it. Some signs of withdrawal are: irritability, anxiety, headaches, sleep disturbances (insomnia or drowsiness), difficulty concentrating, decreased heart rate and increased appetite, and a craving for nicotine. These symptoms can last from several days to several weeks. However, desire for a cigarette and relapse to smoking can occur months after quitting, indicating that, as with other drug use, other factors in addition to physical dependence play a role in nicotine addiction. Environmental events or emotional states may become conditioned signals for cigarette use.
Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals, including cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, acetylene and ammonia, and also poisonous gases such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. During pregnancy, these chemicals are passed directly to the developing fetus through the umbilical cord, and the affect is as if the baby was smoking a cigarette itself. The health of the baby mirrors the physical condition of the mother. Babies exposed to tobacco smoke while in the womb are likely to be smaller at birth, and are more likely to pick up infections and other diseases. Their intellectual development will also suffer.
The dangers of smoking are not limited to just the smoker. Second-hand smoke, the smoke inhaled from other people’s cigarettes, pipes and cigars, causes 53,000 deaths a year, and is the third largest preventable cause of death in the United States, behind regular smoking and alcohol use.
Second-hand smoke, also called passive smoke, dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks by increasing a person’s risk of developing blood clots. Other dangers from inhaling second-hand smoke include: increased risk of lung and other cancers, breathing difficulties, increased strain on the heart during exercise, aggravated conditions in those with chronic heart and lung disease, and health risks to infants and unborn babies like damaging lung tissue.
Children and teenagers are most seriously affected by second-hand smoke since developing tissues are more likely to be damaged. The carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents in second-hand smoke, are spread evenly throughout an indoor environment. Contrary to popular belief, the carcinogens are just as dangerous to people inhaling the smoke from across the room as they are to those close to the source. In addition, even though the amount of second-hand smoke inhaled by a nonsmoker is small compared to the amount inhaled by a smoker, research indicates that second-hand smoke contains higher concentrations of some of the carcinogens than found in smoke inhaled and exhaled by the smoker.
Smoking is a disgusting, dangerous, and deadly habit. It does not make sense to me personally why any one would start smoking in a time were we are aware of all the dangers this problem offers. Hopefully, some time soon, we as a society can overcome this destructive “plague” of smoking cigarettes.