The Health Hazards of Smoking

Smoking affects a person\'s health in many ways, having both immediate and long term effects. It is a
serious addiction, caused by the drug nicotine. Once inhaled, nicotine reaches the brain almost
immediately (within seven seconds). Milligram for milligram, the nicotine contained in all cigarette smoke
is more potent than heroin.
Humans have been using tobacco for 1,000 years or so. Until about 100 years ago, most tobacco use was in
the form of pipe tobacco, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff. Those who smoked cigarettes had to roll their
own, using loose tobacco. Then, in 1881, the cigarette-rolling machine was invented and smokers went
from consuming 40 cigarettes a year on average to over 12,000 each year.
Risk from tobacco smoke is not limited to the smoker. It has been estimated that exposure to
environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) increases the risk of lung cancer by about 30% (about 3,000 cases a
year in the USA). Non-smoking infants and children who are chronically exposed to in utero and
environmental smoke have an increased risk of respiratory diseases, malignancy, and other health problems
that result in increased hospitalization and days lost from school. Non-smoking adults who are exposed also
have more respiratory symptoms that are likely to contribute to work absenteeism due to illness.
Whenever you light up, the nicotine in tobacco causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure,
and the air passages in your lungs constrict, making it more difficult for you to breathe. As small blood
vessels constrict, your skin temperature may also decrease, causing your fingers, toes and skin to feel cold.
Smoking dulls your senses, particularly your sense of smell and taste. Finally, carcinogens, or cancer
causing agents, and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, enter your bloodstream. This can result in more
rapid onset of chest pain and disturbance of heart rhythm during physical activity or exercise. The long
term effects of smoking are very serious. Smoking contributes to various respiratory diseases, such as
chronic bronchitis, or a shortness of breath and eventual chronic cough; emphysema, or extreme breathing
difficulty and gasping for air; and lung infections, including continual colds, flu and pneumonia.
In addition, smoking can lead to cardiovascular illnesses such as heart disease and arterial disease (clogged
arteries). As arteries constrict, there is also a greater risk of stroke, which results in a disruption of the flow
of blood carrying oxygen to the brain. In fact, studies show that smokers are two to three times more likely
to have a stroke than non-smokers, and the risk of cardiovascular disease is highest for smokers with high
blood pressure and relatively high for women who smoke and use oral contraceptives.
Tobacco use is the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries, and an
important cause of premature death worldwide. In countries which report deaths attributable to smoking
(representing about one-third of the world\'s population), annual deaths from smoking numbered about 1.7
million in 1985, with an estimated 2.1 million in 1995 (and hence about 21 million in the decade 1990-99:
5-6 million in the European Community, 5-6 million in the the USA, 5 million in the former USSR, 3
million in Easter Europe and 2 million elsewhere). More than half of these deaths occur in people 35-69
years of age. During the 1990\'s, tobacco will cause about 30% of all deaths in people aged between 35-69
years in developed countries (making it the largest single cause of premature death) plus about 15% of all
deaths at older ages. In addition, increasing incidence of smoking in the developing world is likely to lead
to a new epidemic of smoking-related disease.
Smoking contributes to the onset of many diseases, and is thought to account for 87% of deaths in lung
cancer, 82% in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 21% in coronary heart disease (CHD) and
18% in stroke cases. Therefore, once addicted to nicotine, the smoker faces an unacceptably increased risk
of respiratory, neoplastic and cardiovascular disorders. Even without overt pulmonary symptoms, the
smoker has a chronic inflammatory disease of the lower airways with an accelerated decline in lung
In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking has been linked to other forms of cancer, including cancer of
the larynx (or voicebox); cancer of the mouth, throat and