Almost half the people using tobacco die, with a toll of more than 7 million lives each year. Of these 7 million, 6 million are direct users of tobacco, while remaining are those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. What else do you need to know to quit smoking tobacco? If still not convinced, read ahead.
- Smoking kills more people than car accidents, alcohol, HIV, gunshots, and illegal drug usage, all combined.
- Tobacco smokers have a shorter life span than non-smokers.
- Male smokers, on an average, die 12 years earlier, and female smokers 11 years earlier.
- Not only does smoking cause cancer, it can also damage almost every organ in the human body such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, mouth, eyes, reproductive system, skin, bones, and eyes.
Cancer risk associated with tobacco smoking
There are more than 4000 chemicals present in tobacco smoke. Out of that, about 250 are known to be harmful, while 50 are carcinogenic. Commonest cancer caused by tobacco smoking is lung cancer, which is a leading cause of death in both the genders. According to a reputed oncologist in Hyderabad, lung cancer is the hardest cancer to treat.
Other types of cancer associated with tobacco smoking are:
- Myeloid leukemia
The worst part of using tobacco is that there is no safe way or limit of using tobacco. You might consume cigars, cigarettes, spits, pipes or whatever form you prefer, in whatever amount, they will all do the damage and increase the risk of cancer.
Effects of inhaling smoke
Smoke is so harmful that whatever cell tissues it is exposed to, it harms it. Factually, even those smokers who don’t inhale the smoke, and assume they are safe that way, are at risk. In the end, they are breathing in the smoke coming out of their own mouth and the burned end of whatever tobacco form they are using. They are at same risks as a regular smoker is.
Effects of smoking on lungs
The damage caused by tobacco smoke is almost instant. As soon as it enters the airways of the respiratory system and small air sacs in the lungs, damage begins at a cellular level. However, the problem may become diagnosable only after the damage has accumulated for years. But, damage from smaller duration of smoking shouldn’t be undermined. Damage is damage.
Tobacco smoking can proliferate any pre-existing respiratory disorder like asthma or pneumonia. Apart from that, it also causes several other respiratory diseases which are as awful as lung cancer itself. Some of these respiratory conditions related to tobacco smoking are COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Unfortunately, any damage incurred by tobacco smoking cannot be reversed making it hard to completely cure these ailments. The best treatment modality in these conditions remains symptomatic treatment.
Before smokers’ lungs have gathered enough damage to proceed to one of the above-mentioned ailments, they may suffer from what’s called ‘Smoker’s cough’. Smoking leaves a lot of particles and chemicals inside the lungs that irritates the inner linings of airways and lungs. In order to get rid of these particles, body secretes more mucus and promotes cough. This cough is termed as smoker’s cough.
Such a cough may particularly be more severe in the morning. This is because the cilia, involved in pushing the irritants out of the lungs, may get overworked throughout the day and stop to function. After a night’s rest, the cilia recover and get back to work in the morning, making the cough severe.
Such a smoker’s cough can be considered as a warning sign for upcoming COPD, or even lung cancer.
Effect of smoking on cardiovascular system
Just as chemicals and irritants damage the tissues in the respiratory system, once they enter the system, they damage whatever they come in contact with. By damaging the tissues in the cardiovascular system, i.e. heart and blood vessels, tobacco smoking enhances the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. In fact, smoking has been established by several studies to be a leading cause of coronary heart disease (CHD), that can eventually lead to heart attack and death.
Smoking also causes hypertension (increase blood pressure), reduces your stamina, and makes blood prone to improper clotting. Smoking can also lower the HDL (High density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol) levels in blood.
Tobacco smoking promotes plaque formation and deposition in the blood vessels, building up to PAD (peripheral arterial disease). Not only does this decrease the blood flow and puts unnecessary load on the circulatory system, it increases the risk of CHD, stroke and heart attack.
As mentioned before, the decreased flow to periphery, i.e. the limbs (arms and legs) can lead to peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This will cause a constant pain in legs, that will proliferate on walking. It can also cause non-healing open sores in the periphery. Any surgical intervention to improve blood flow may fail if the patient continues smoking.
Effects of Tobacco Smoking on Reproductive System
Tobacco smoking can affect both males and females differently.
In females, it may lead to infertility or cause difficulty in conceiving. Even when they are pregnant, both, mother and baby are at constant risk. Some of the involved risks are:
- Ectopic pregnancy that results in pregnancy termination and life risk to mother
- Early rupture of membranes or placenta
- Severe bleeding which can cause premature birth or an urgent C-section might be required
- Defects in babies like cleft palate/lip, other congenital defects, low birth weight, or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- Increased risk of miscarriages or still births
Smoking can also cause earlier menopause and more severe symptoms of menopause.
In males, tobacco smoking can cause erectile dysfunction, commonly called impotence, a result of damage to arteries and reduced blood flow. Smoking can also affect male fertility, cause issues with sperms and lead to miscarriages or birth defects.
Other harmful effects of Tobacco Smoking on Health
As discussed before, tobacco smoking is known to cause problems in almost all parts of the body. Here are a few more problems associated with tobacco smoking:
- Bad breath
- Defective immune system
- Enhanced risk of Diabetes type 2
- Enhanced risk of macular degeneration, leading to blindness
- Peptic ulcers
- Poor dental health, gum problems and tooth loss
- Premature skin ageing
- Reduced bone density leading to risk of fractures. Hip fractures can be very difficult to manage.
- Sensory loss, especially taste and smell
- Slower or no healing
Not only does smoking cause health related issues, it also degrades one’s quality of life leading to a poor life before death takes it away. Quitting smoking at the earliest can help. If you want to lead a good life, it’s recommended never to take smoking in the first place. However, if you’re a smoker, and don’t wish to make a weekly visit to an oncologist, or even a physician for that matter, quit smoking, NOW!