Why You Should Give Up Smoking

It is highly certain that you have seen numerous warnings about how smoking is bad for you. But here’s the question – Why? What is it about smoking that is so dangerous? Let’s find out. Shall we?

What makes up a cigarette?

A cigarette is usually made up of three parts. Firstly, there is the cigarette filter, also known as, the cigarette butt. Then there is the rolling paper which is wrapped around a tobacco blend. The tobacco blend is usually made up of dried and processed tobacco leaves and leaf stems.

What happens when a cigarette is lit?

Typically, the tobacco blend contains over 7,000 different chemicals. These chemicals are released in the form of small particles and gases. Cigarette smoke then passes through the cigarette filter. The cigarette filter traps bits of partially burnt tobacco called tar. The filter is only able to trap some and not all of the tar. Tar is sticky and brown, resulting in that characteristic yellowish stain on smoker’s nails. In addition to staining the smoker’s fingernails, it also moves into the mouth and stains the teeth, gum, buccal mucosa, and vocal cords. The vocal cords become irritated by the tar, making people cough reflexively.

Cigarette smoke and the lungs

Cigarette smoke passes the upper airway to get to the lower airway. The lower airway is lined by cilia. Cilia are tiny hair-like projections that beat in order to move debris and bacteria out of the lungs. Hydrogen cyanide is a poisonous gas that works with tar in order to paralyze these cilia. With the cilia out of action, the cigarette smoke is able to move even deeper into the lungs. Other cancer causing chemicals in tobacco such as arsenic and benzopyrene also coat the lining of the airway. This is where they significantly increase the risk of lung cancer.

Source: Nicorette

With the main defense of the lungs paralyzed, the cigarette smoke moves into the alveoli. The alveoli are where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide using haemoglobin. Haemoglobin then carries the oxygen to the rest of the body to be used as fuel. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is also found in cigarette smoke. This gas knocks off oxygen from haemoglobin and instead takes its place. This creates a problem as the body cannot use carbon monoxide as fuel. This leads to the starvation of body cells from lack of oxygen. The “starving” cells send inflammatory signals to the lungs. This makes the condition worse as increased inflammation leads to increased mucous production and narrowing of the airways, making it even more difficult to breathe.

Distant effects of cigarette smoke

The remaining chemicals in cigarette smoke are also absorbed into the bloodstream. Once this happens, there is no limit to amount of damage they can cause. This damage extends to other body organs asides the lungs. There are a large number of oxidizing and highly reactive chemicals in cigarette smoke. These chemicals can damage any type of body cells.

The first thing they are most likely to destroy are the blood vessels. Oxidizing chemicals react with the lining of the blood vessels causing inflammation and fatty plaques. These fatty plaques narrow the blood vessel. The oxidizing chemicals also damage the vessels that supply the brain and heart. Occlusion of any these vessels could lead to the death of the part of the vital organs they supply, manifesting as a stroke or a heart attack.

Metals such as arsenic and radioactive substances such as polonium continue to travel to other body parts through the blood. They significantly increase the risk of other cancer types. For example, skin cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, and bladder cancer.

Science of nicotine

None of the previously highlighted effects of cigarette smoke sound attractive. Why then do people continue to smoke? It is the nicotine in cigarette that make them so addictive. Within 7 seconds of smoking a cigarette, nicotine rich blood travels from the lungs to the brain. In the brain, nicotine causes the release of brain messengers like dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin. This leads to the activation of the brain’s reward and alertness system. This is why some people report feeling more focused and attentive after smoking a cigarette.

Nicotine can also cause temporary feelings of relaxation due to the increased level of serotonin in the brain. Nicotine only stays in the body for a few hours, after which it is broken down in the liver and expelled through the urine. As soon as nicotine exits the body, the body misses the buzz of having huge amounts of stimulating brain messengers flowing around. Cravings can begin just 2 hours after your last smoke.

Signs of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Insomnia

Every time you light another cigarette, the effects of nicotine gets weaker, as your brain develops a tolerance to the drug. This means that you would need more nicotine to get the same high, and cravings would get even stronger. This forms the cycle of addiction.

The roller-coaster of cigarette smoking

There are thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke. This article has only touched the tip of the iceberg. At least, another 250 are known to be harmful and 70 are known to initiate, cause or promote cancer. Now imagine putting your body through this kind of roller-coaster every few hours, every day for many years.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

Long term complications of smoking

Other than the increased risk of cancer, there are so many other long term complications of smoking. Some of them include:

  • Emphysema
  • Skin wrinkling
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste
  • Impotence

A word from HealthFacts to you

Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills its users when used exactly as intended by its manufacturers. It can be very difficult to overcome an addiction to nicotine, so the best thing you can do is to never pick up a cigarette in the first place. However, if you are smoking and are thinking of quitting, you are halfway there. May a decision to stop smoking today.

Happy World No-Tobacco Day!

Suggested Reading: Read This Before Your Next Glass of Alcohol – Life Saving!


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