Facts about smoking

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Over 100,000 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases each year. Based on recent statistics, 23 percent of male deaths and 12 percent of female deaths are attributable to smoking. On the average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.

Among the known cancer-causing substances and behaviors, smoking is the most documented in relation to the general population for countless decades. Intake of nicotine and related substances in whatever form of tobacco – use such as cigar smoking, pipe, chewing (also known as smokeless tobacco), or with the use of hookah and e-cigarettes (or vaping) – exposes one to its undesirable effects.

Even second hand smoke (sharing closed space with an active smoker) or third hand smoke (using a closed space previously occupied by an active smoker) exposes one to the same risks.

While the incidence of smoking has been reduced due to health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic (with the wearing of masks), many people still take the risk because of addiction to it.

Unlike many addictions, smoking harms nearly all organs of the body from head to foot. Of the over 4,000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, each one or all together, can produce cancer. A few of the chemicals are tar, carbon monoxide, oxidizing chemicals, metals like arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel and many radioactive compounds, as well as, insecticides used in cultivating and processing tobacco plants.

Nicotine, the main substance in cigarettes, constricts the blood vessels in the body and results in conditions such as wrinkling of the skin, especially around the corners of the eyes (also called crow’s feet) and around the mouth, brittle hair and premature balding, it also causes sagging of the skin and breasts, staining of the skin and nails and ultimately skin cancer.

Cigarette smoking causes cataracts and puts a smoker at a higher risk of blindness. It also causes bad breath, frequent and chronic upper respiratory infections, as well as cancer of the mouth, tongue, pharynx and the gums.

While most people associate cigarette smoking to lung cancer, it also results in chronic bronchitis (inflammation of bronchial tubes), bronchiectasis (lungs are filled with mucous and bacteria), and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It also predisposes the smoker to COVID-19 Pneumonia which is, almost always, fatal.

In addition to being a cause of cancers of the mouth, cigarette smoking has been documented as one of the main causes of cancer of the pancreas, bone marrow (myeloid leukemia), kidney, cervix, ovary, liver, stomach , etc.  It also affects the reproductive system as in erectile dysfunction, infertility, decreased libido, abortions, underweight babies and congenital deformities.

Due to poor blood circulation, bones become brittle and easily break, and as the supply of blood to the extremities compromised, it can cause Buerger’s disease that can lead to gangrene and, eventually, amputations. It is a known fact that cigarette smoking can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes type 2 and strokes.

It used to be that smoking was viewed by many people as a status symbol but due to the incidence of cancer and other diseases and, recently, as a predisposing factor to COVID, more smokers seem to be quitting, or wanting to quit.

The good news is that quitting can bring immediate health benefits at any age. Within the first 24 hours of quitting, the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and peripheral circulation begin to improve.

By 48 hours, nicotine has left the body and in six months, shortness of breath and smoker’s cough becomes less of a daily occurrence. After 15 years of abstinence, the risk of heart attack and stroke falls to the level of those people who never smoked. – NWI