Written By: Dr M. A. Wajid
Dear Readers! Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable deaths globally. Tobacco use leads most commonly to diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. It also causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension. The effects depend on the number of years that a person smokes and on how much the person smokes. Starting smoking earlier in life and smoking cigarettes higher in tar increases the risk of these diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths in 2004 and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century.
Health Effects: A person's increased risk of contracting disease is directly proportional to the length of time that a person continues to smoke as well as the amount smoked. However, if someone stops smoking then these chances gradually decrease as the damage to the body is repaired. A year after quitting, the risk of contracting heart disease is half than someone who continues to smoke. The health risks of smoking are not uniform across all smokers. Risks vary according to amount of tobacco smoked, with those who smoke more at greater risk. Light cigarette smoking still poses a significant (though reduced) health risk, as does pipe and cigar smoking. Smoking so-called "light" cigarettes, does not reduce the risk.
Overall life expectancy is also reduced in regular smokers, with estimates ranging from 10 to 17.9 years fewer than non-smokers. The association of smoking with lung cancer is strongest. People who have smoked tobacco at some point have about a one in ten chance of developing lung cancer during their lifetime whereas people who continue to smoke tobacco, the risk increases to one in six.
Few of the glaring after effects are as under:
Mortality: Male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 to 14.5 years of life, respectively. Smokers are three times as likely to die before the age of 60 or 70 as non-smokers. On a worldwide basis, this equates to a single jumbo jet every hour.
Cancer: Besides very common lungs cancer, the kidney neck, breast, bladder pancreas and stomach, and liver may be attached by cancer due to smoking.
Pulmonary: Long term exposure to smoking causes pulmonary damage leading to emphysema and COPD, respiratory infections and asthma.
Cardiovascular: The moment an individual inhales tobacco smoke, it causes several immediate responses including increased heart rate by as much as 30% during the first 10 minutes of smoking and it also increases chance of heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease and Buerger's disease. People under 40 years of age are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack, if they smoke. Smoking also tends to increase blood cholesterol levels, lowers ratio of HDL ("good" cholesterol) to LDL ("bad" cholesterol). LDL tends to be lower in smokers as compared to non-smokers. Smoking also raises the levels of fibrinogen and increases platelet production.
All these factors make smokers more at risk of developing various forms of arteriosclerosis.
Renal: Increases the risk of kidney cancer, and renal damage. A history of smoking encourages the progression of diabetic nephropathy.
Oral: The most serious oral condition is oral cancer, affecting lip, tongue, mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, and lung, including periodontitis or inflammation around the teeth, gingival recession, mucosal lesions, halitosis or bad breath, tooth loss, leukoplakia, including loss of taste sensation or salivary changes.
Impotence: Incidence of impotence is approximately 85 % higher in male smokers compared to non-smokers.
Female Infertility: Smoking is harmful to the ovaries, potentially causing female infertility and the degree of damage is dependent upon the amount and length of time a woman smokes. Smokers are 60% more likely to be infertile than non-smokers.
Psychological: Although Smokers often report that cigarettes help relieve feelings of stress which is wrong. However the stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than those of nonsmokers. Nicotine dependency seems to exacerbate stress.
Social and Behavioural: Medical researchers have found that smoking is a predictor of divorce. Smokers have a 53% greater chance of divorce than nonsmokers.
In Pregnancy: Tobacco smoking is a significant factor in miscarriages among pregnant smokers, and that it contributes to a number of other threats to the health of the fetus including lower infant birth weights. Women who smoke have about a 50% higher chance of giving birth to a child with behavioural disorders, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
Passive Smoking: Passive smoking is the inhalation, usually involuntary, of second-hand smoke from tobacco products by non-smokers or persons other than the intended 'active' smoker. Any person exposed to passive smoking may experience short-term symptoms such as a headache, a cough, wheezing, an eye irritation, a sore throat, nausea or dizziness. Adults with asthma may also experience a significant decline in lung function when exposed to secondhand smoke. Under these conditions it can take as little as half an hour for an individual's coronary blood flow to become reduced.
Most children & ladies at home / public places suffer from this forced inhalation and is more or less, harmful of them. It was estimated that prolonged exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, such as in the home, increases the risk of lung cancer by approximately 20 to 25%.
The Benefits to quit Smoking:
Immediate: The immediate benefits of quitting smoking are substantial:
• Heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal.
• Within a few hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood begins to decline.
• Within a few weeks, there is improvement of circulation, decreased phlegm, cough/wheeze.
• Within several months substantial improvements in lung function.
Long-Term: In the longer run, quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer and other diseases, such as heart disease and COPD. People who quit smoking, regardless of their age, are less likely than those who continue to smoke to die from smoking-related illness:
• Quitting at age 30 reduces their chance of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by more than 90 %.
• Quitting at age 50 reduce their risk of dying prematurely by 50 % compared with those who continue to smoke.
• Quitting at age 60 or older live longer than those who continue to smoke.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer. However, it takes a number of years after quitting for the risk of cancer to start to decline.
Research proves that there are many reasons that people diagnosed with cancer should also quit smoking. For those having surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments, quitting smoking helps improve the body's ability to heal and respond to therapy, it also lowers the risk of pneumonia and respiratory failure. Moreover, quitting smoking may lower the risk of the cancer returning or a second cancer developing.
Few boys and girls begin to smoke to ease their tensions and few take it as a style to impress opposite genders. Both theories are wrong and misleading. There should be a proactive approach by parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends to stop each other to smoke. By and large, smoking is an established killer and should be discouraged at all level. Get help to quit smoking. Contact your physician or health councilor for advice on alternative to smoking including Tobacco patches, chewing gums, sweet's cigarettes, and other smoke addiction therapies.