The Effects of Smoking

Smoking is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. What you don't hear are many of the effects of smoking. You may have heard that smoking causes cancer, but there are many more effects of smoking than just cancer.
One of the main problems of smoking is that people have a limited knowledge of smoking. In fact, in 1983, one-quarter of the smoking population did not believe that smoking caused illness. In 1991 around one in seven smokers attributed no illness to smoking. This is compared to never-smokers and past smokers, of whom only 3% and 5% respectively shared this view. However, it is likely that smokers' stated beliefs reflect at least some degree of denial. While smokers may accept that smoking is harmful to health, they may, at the same time, dismiss their own chances of being affected.
Cancer may occur in people aged in their thirties, if they have been smoking for 15 - 20 years. The influence of smoking on heart disease is much greater at younger ages. In smokers between 35 - 44 years of age, 73% of deaths from coronary heart disease are due to smoking. By ages 75 - 84 years, the proportion of CHD deaths due to smoking in current smokers falls to 14%. Even smoking one cigarette causes a wide range of physiological reactions. The carbon monoxide inhaled when a cigarette is lit has a number of toxic effects on the body. The first is the impairment of oxygen transportation in the blood. This impairs muscular performance, and may also affect the vision, particularly at altitude.
In general, smokers are less fit than non-smokers, performing less well in both endurance and short-term exercises. Smokers are slower, reach exhaustion earlier, and achieve lower goals. These disadvantages are directly related to duration of smoking and amount and are caused by the effects of carbon monoxide on blood oxygen levels, as well as increased heart and metabolic rates stimulated by smoking. Toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the lung capacity, leading to increased coughs and respiratory infections among smokers. Adolescent smokers cough more than non-smokers do, and by the time they reach young adulthood, a substantial proportion of them will have abnormal changes and the cellular structure of their small airways. Younger people are also more likely to miss school or work due to illness or smoke related problems.
Smoking also has some good health benefits. It can reduce the incidence of some diseases (endometrial cancer, Parkinson's disease, ulcerative colitis, hypertension of pregnancy, and Alzheimer's disease). This is known as the 'productive effect'. There is evidence to suggest that smoking reduces the risk of cancer of endometrium (membrane lining of the Uterus) in post-menopausal women estimated by 30% in current smokers. Smoking is known to affect other estrogen-related phenomena. The action of cigarette smoking is opposite to that of estrogen in each instance: relative to other women, smokers have an earlier age at menopause and bones that are brittle. It is not inconsistent that tobacco smoke could counter the effect of estrogens and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Recent research indicates that smoking may also protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease in some measure.
The process of smoking a cigarette produces three different types of tobacco smoke. The first is mainstream smoke, which is the smoke that you inhale directly through the burning cigarette. The second is the exhaled mainstream smoke, which is the smoke that is exhaled out of the mouth after inhaling mainstream smoke. The third is sidestream smoke, the smoke that drifts from the end of the lit cigarette. Sidestream smoke contains greater amounts of ammonia, benzene, carbon monoxide, nicotine and the carcinogens 2-napthylamine, 4-aminobiphenyl, N-nitrosamine, benz[a]anthracene and benzo-pyrene per milligram of tobacco burned. The particles of sidestream smoke are smaller than those of mainstream smoke, meaning that they can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs.
The breathing of tobacco smoke polluted air by non-smokers can lead to serious harm, such as increased bronchitis, pneumonia and other chest illnesses in children, lung cancer and other lung diseases, and cardiovascular disease. There are also "irritant" effects of tobacco smoke to the eyes, nose, throat and airway passages.
There are many other effects of passive smoking. A recent study estimated