Tobacco smoking is one of the most important risk factors of cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. If smoking addiction isn’t dealt seriously, it is expected that by year 2020 the deaths by smoking would rise to 1.5 million per year in India alone.
What makes tobacco smoking harmful?
Well, you’d be surprised to know that cigarette smoke comprises of over 4000 compounds, out of which a huge number are harmful. Many of them are toxic to the cells, many are even carcinogenic. The major components in smoke are nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide.
Nicotine isn’t carcinogenic by itself, but it is what makes smoking addictive. Blame it on nicotine that smokers want to smoke again and again, thus, exposing them to the harmful components. Carbon monoxide on the other is poisonous. It can lead to coma or death if inhaled in large quantities.
Tar is what makes the smoke harmful. It contains a lot of carcinogens. Moreover, it always goes in with a puff, but never comes out. Most of it remain in the lung and do the damage.
Effects on heart and blood vessels
The tobacco smoke has harmful chemicals that damage the blood cells and the blood vessels both. This damage predisposes the cardiovascular system to all sorts of problems like aneurysms, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease and stroke. There is high risk of rise in blood pressure leading to hypertension, along with increased risk of heart attack. Heart diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally and when accentuated with smoking the risk is too high to ignore.
Effects on respiratory system
Respiratory system is the first organ system that comes in contact with the smoke. About 70% of the inhaled tar settles in the lungs to carry on its damage. Respiratory conditions associated with smoking are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD including bronchiectasis and emphysema), chronic bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia. Since smoking has a diminishing effect on immunity too, the incidence of respiratory infections is increased. There is high risk of developing tuberculosis (caused by infection from mycobacterium tuberculosis).
Effects on bones
Studies have shown that smoking can reduce the bone density. Hence, smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis. The smoker is predisposed fractures on slight exertion. Female smokers, alcoholics and obese people are particularly at risk. In women smoking reduces the levels of estrogen, leading to an early menopause. That again increases the chances of osteoporosis.
Increased risk of autoimmune diseases
Smoking tends to weaken the immunity. Hence, it plays significant role in both development and worsening of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. A smoker has twice the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than a non-smoker.
Increased risk of cancer
Now, it’s not a secret that smoking predisposes the body to a whole spectrum of cancers. There are about 69 carcinogens present in the cigarette smoke. Since lungs are the first organs coming in contact with the smoke, lung cancer is the most common cancer associated with smoking. Other cancers associated with smoking are:
- Renal carcinoma (cancer of kidney)
- Bladder cancer
- Cancers of throat (pharynx and larynx)
- Cancers of oral cavity and lips
- Cancers in respiratory tract (lungs, trachea and bronchus)
- Esophageal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cancers in stomach
- Cancers of Rectum or colon
- Certain types of leukemia
- Cancers of the nasal cavity (nose & sinuses)
- Cancers of female genital tract (cervical, ovarian and uterine)
- Rarely breast cancer too
— Zigverve.com (@zigverve) October 12, 2015
Effects on vision
Studies have shown that smoking has harmful effects on eyes too. There is an increased risk for cataract, damage to optic nerve and macular degeneration. If any of them are allowed to progress it can lead to blindness too.
Not only each cigarette you smoke shortens your life by 11 minutes, but it also makes the remaining life more miserable than you can imagine. Hence, you must quit smoking as soon as possible (the best, quit it right now). [Also read: Tips on quitting cigarette]