Ill Effects of Smoking

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Ill Effects of Smoking

The effects of smoking are legion. Smoking is dangerous because it has effects on the respiratory system and cardiovascular system. One of the most dreaded effects of smoking is lung cancer. Unfortunately, the effects of smoking are seen not only among smokers, but also in the people around them.

Why is cigarette smoke dangerous?

Smoking is dangerous because smoke contains more than four thousand poisonous substances which cause various diseases, even death. Among these are cancer-producing substances, carbon monoxide, nicotine, and other irritating substances.

What diseases can result from cigarette smoking?

Smoking causes lung disease, heart and blood vessel disease, cancer, and other illness. One of four smokers dies of diseases directly related to smoking. Many others suffer years of pain, ill health, and discomfort.

How does smoking harm the lungs?

Tar and carbon monoxide irritate and damage the lining of the lungs when you breathe in air with cigarette smoke. This starts as a tickle in your throat, and later turns into smoker's cough. As this gets worse, you produce more and more phlegm. These warning signs are your body's way of trying to protect you from the smoke.

If you ignore your body's warnings and continue to smoke, you are likely to suffer more often from colds and flu, as well as bronchitis, pneumonia, and other more serious chest infections. Eventually, you could get emphysema, an irreversible condition when part of the lung is completely and permanently damaged. As the disease gets worse, you will have difficulty in breathing and may hardly be able to walk. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of emphysema.

How does smoking cause heart and blood vessel disease?

Smoking is one of the major cause of heart disease. The nicotine in tobacco smoke raises your blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels and making your heart work faster. This makes your heart work harder. It needs oxygen to do this extra work. But cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide cuts down the oxygen reaching your heart by up to 15 percent. Nicotine promotes fat build-up on the walls of your arteries, damaging them and decreasing blood flow, resulting in heart disease and heart attack. No wonder smoking doubles your risk of dying of a heart attack!

Smoking also causes direct injury to your artery walls and promotes fat build-up in them. You may experience circulation problems such as cold feet, occasional pins and needles, and numbness in the leg. At an advanced stage, the disease may result in gangrene, which could lead to the amputation of your legs. Nineteen out of twenty people suffering from this disabling disease are cigarette smokers.

When the arteries that are affected are those supplying your brain, a stroke may occur; those supplying the eyes, blindness; and those supplying the sex organ, impotence.

How is cigarette smoking related to cancer?

Cigarette smoking increases your risk of dying from lung cancer by 8 to 20 times. Nine out of ten people who die from lung cancer are smokers. Smoking increases the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus by two to twenty times. The risk of cancer also increases even in organs not directly exposed to tobacco smoke. These include the pancreas, kidneys, urinary bladder, and probably the cervix.

What other ill effects does smoking cause?

Smoking makes you less healthy, less fit, and less likely to succeed in life. It makes breathing harder, causes wheezing, coughing, and headaches, and damages your sense of taste and smell. It causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, and it stains your teeth and fingernails.

Does smoking affect non-smokers?

Yes. For every person who smokes, there are two who do not. But the non-smoker still breathes in “sidestream” smoke from the burning cigarette tip and “mainstream” smoke that has been inhaled then exhaled by the smoker. This is called passive, involuntary, or second-hand smoke, which also exposes the non-smoker to the same dangers and discomforts that a smoker faces.

Non-smokers living with smokers have a 35% increased risk of getting lung cancer compared to non-smokers living with fellow non-smokers. Smokers' children are more likely to get bronchitis, pneumonia, and other chest infections, especially in their first year of life. Chronic cough and phlegm are also more frequent among children of parents who smoke. In the workplace, chronic exposure to tobacco smoke reduces airway function to the same degree as smoking one to ten cigarettes a day.

Excerpt from The Ill Effects of Smoking, Institute of Pulmonary Medicine, St. Luke's Medical Center