Smoking is a practice in which a substance such as tobacco or cannabis is burned and the smoke inhaled or tasted. Today, the most common form of smoking is through cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaporizers, bongs, beedies and hookahs. Tobacco remains the most popular form of smoking with approximately one billion people in the world practicing for recreational purposes.
Smoking is harmful to the health of the population as cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemical components, the addictive ingredient being Nicotine. After smoking, nicotine is absorbed quickly into the blood stream before reaching the brain and the muscle tissues. In the brain, epinephrine chemicals are released, resulting in increased heart pulse rate, drop in skin temperature brought about by increased blood pressure, increased tension and relaxation of the muscles and increase in stomach secretions and brain activities. These bring about the feeling of pleasure and energy. The body is build up to withstand high levels of nicotine, thereafter the feeling fades away resulting in depression and sadness, thus the cycle of smoking repeats itself consequently results in addiction.
Besides nicotine, cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a harmful gas compound brought by incomplete combustion of tobacco matter. Exposure to carbon monoxide increases the risk of developing health complications. Cigarette smoke also contains tar, which is a product of partially combusted tobacco matter. Tar contributes to a number of health complications as discussed in detail below.
It should be noted that when an individual smokes, it does not only affect the person smoking, but also those around him, who are also exposed to the smoke. This is called Second hand smoke and is otherwise dangerous.
Health Effects of Smoking
Tobacco smoking is extremely detrimental to the health of an individual. It causes a wide range of illnesses that may be fatal, while those who survive may suffer from long-term poor health. Smoking leads to the following effects:
It is documented that smokers have a higher chance of suffering from respiratory illnesses than non smokers. These respiratory diseases are: Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes: Bronchitis and Emphysema conditions. In Bronchitis, the cilia is damaged and bronchia mucosa is irritated and produces too much mucus, causing the narrowing of the respiratory tract, which results in accumulation of excessive mucus amounts, breathing difficulties and chronic coughing. Emphysema condition involves difficulty in breathing. In this case, the alveolar sacs, which have a large surface, bust and unite in larger sacs and it becomes difficult to get enough oxygen.
Another respiratory condition is Asthma, which affects the airways of the lungs. The bronchia and bronchioles' walls contain muscle bands, which become inflamed and irritable. These muscles constrict, narrowing the breathing ways resulting in shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing and tightness of the chest. These attacks are, however, intermittent with periods of normal respiration.
Pneumonia is a condition caused by smoking, where there is inflammation of the lungs primarily affecting the alveoli resulting in difficult breathing, chest pain, and fever and coughing.
These are diseases that affect the circulatory system of the body. They include: Angina Pectoris, which is chest pain as a result of restriction of the coronary muscle of the heart. Stroke may also result from tobacco smoking. Stroke is a rapid loss of brain function through disturbance of blood supply to the brain. This comes about as tobacco smoking causes restriction of blood supply to the brain. The affected area of the brain will thereby cease to work affecting movement, sight or speech. Heart attack can also result from smoking tobacco. This occurs after restriction of coronary artery, which supplies oxygen to the heart. The restriction results in shortage of oxygen into the heart to bring about damage and subsequent death of the heart tissues. Smoking also results in insufficient blood flow into the lower limbs as majority of leg amputees are tobacco smokers.
Tobacco smoke contains nearly 70 elements that are known to cause cancer. Individuals exposed to carcinogens, such as asbestos and radon, are likely to suffer from: Lung cancer, Oral and nasal cavity cancer, pharynx and larynx cancers, and esophagus cancer, pancreatic cancer, urinary bladder cancer, stomach, liver and kidney cancers. They may also suffer from leukemia and uterine cervix cancer.
Miscellaneous Health Effects
Smoking may cause complications to the eyes, such as cataract, macular degeneration, which results in loss of sharp vision. Smoking has a major influence on oral hygiene, such as bad breath increasing the risk of tooth loss. It also contributes to bone loss, poor healing of muscle and skeletal injuries. Smoking results Compromised reproductive health in the male body by reducing the male sperm level, increases the number of deformed sperms, results in genetic damage to the sperm and impotence due to the effects of smoking on blood flow and damage to the blood vessels of the penis.
In the female body, smoking results in reduced fertility, menstrual cycle irregularities or absence of menstruation cycle and attainment of menopause prior to an individuals original time that is one or two years earlier.
The effects of tobacco smoke are not limited to smokers alone. Maternal smoking effects can be realized on the unborn baby leading to an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. It brings about low birth weight, which may have a lasting effect on the growth and development of a child. Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, being overweight and diabetes in adulthood Maternal smoking increases the risk of cleft palate (palatoschisis) and cleft lip (cheiloschisis) a congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation resulting in a gap on the upper lip of a child. Second-hand smoke may harm a fetus if the mother is exposed to paternal smoking.
Some of the negative social consequences of smoking are based on what smoking does to a person's body. Cigarette smoking causes the following symptoms:
It stains the teeth yellow and causes bad breath. Yellow teeth make a person look older while bad breath is unattractive and a social ill. Smoking causes tooth decay making smokers prone to losing teeth. Smoking also stains fingernails and skin. People can develop yellow fingernails and skin from smoking, which makes them look unhealthy and unattractive. It causes chronic coughs, which may make other people avoid the smoker. It causes wrinkled skin making the smokers look older than they are.
Some of smoking paradoxes have been uncovered by researchers that nicotine in tobacco smoke contains anti-inflammatory agents and deters disease forming process. Nicotine has the following effects:
Risk of ulcerative colitis, a disease of the colon that is characterized by ulcers or open sores has been shown to be reduced by smokers on a dose-dependent basis.
According to studies, smokers are less likely to be affected by aphthous ulcer, a type of mouth ulcer that presents as a painful open sore inside the mouthor upper throat characterized by a tear in the mucus linings.
Smoking can also reduce rates of uterine fibroids, a benign tumor in the muscles of the uterus. Nicotine is also an effective antipsychotic.
Studies have shown that nicotine from smoke reduces schizophrenia Nicotine reduces the risk of Pre-eclampsia a medical condition in which hypertension arises during pregnancy as a result of increased levels of protein in the urine.
Apart from health advantages of smoking as stated above, smoking aids in social group acceptance. It is also an effective weight loss aid through a variety of mechanisms including increased metabolic demand and appetite suppression.
It also aids in performance enhancement in tasks requiring concentration. This is especially so for smokers who have used tobacco for a long time.
Cigarette smoking has been shown to increase serum hemoglobin and total lung capacity, factors that all contribute to enhanced performance in endurance sports. Nicotine in tobacco smoke is also responsible for Stress relief and anxiety loss as a result of relaxation of the muscles.
Although studies have shown that smoking can reduce digestive, reproductive health and psychological problems, its negative consequences by far outweigh its benefits and it should be totally discouraged, cigarette advertisements regulated and smoking in public controlled. Smokers should thereby quit the habit as it is a drain physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially and socially.
Quitting smoking has major advantages to a smoker because: it has major health benefits to both men and women of all ages. The benefits are extended to those who already have smoking related illnesses. Ex-smokers have a longer life span than those, who still smoke meaning that they will live longer than those, who still smoke.
Process of Smoking Secession
Making the Decision to Quit
The ability to know whether one is ready to stop smoking is the first plan in quitting smoking. This puts the individual contemplating quitting in control and able to make important decisions along the way. He should assess thoughts about smoking including identifying and learning the direct risks associated with smoking and second hand smoke to the health of individuals. Readiness to quit smoking requires an individual to identify his smoking habits and to develop a way of countering the habit.
Making a Plan and Setting a Quit Date and Implementing the Plan
Picking a quit date allows an individual to rationalize his actions. A strong commitment should, however, be put across on the quit date and a support team put up, such as a group program.
Temptations come about as a result of coming into contact with smokers resulting in slips and relapses. To avoid temptations, an individual should stay away from smokers. Over time, confidence comes in and an individual can mingle with smokers without deviating.
An individual should change from coffee and alcohol to water to reduce chances of relapse and slips. Choose foods that discourage an ex-smoker from smoking and breathe deeply to fill your lungs with clean air.
Smoking secession is a difficult process; however, all the money that might have been used to buy cigarettes can now be used for self treatment, such as buying clothes, visiting museums and libraries among other beneficial courses.
An ex-smoker can use the same strategy in staying quit as the one used in coping with withdrawal symptoms. Plan on a healthy diet and exercise routines to avoid relapses and slips brought about by stress from weight gain. Finally, an ex-smoker should rule out the desire to smoke.
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