Effects of Smoking - Tobacco, Cigarettes, Chemicals and Cancer

Passive smoking and second hand smoke

One cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds and around 400 toxic substances, including known cancer-causing agents, so it's not surprising that the effects of smoking can be fatal.

According to various research studies there are around 20 ways smoking can kill and at least 50 ways in which it can seriously damage your health.

By 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) expects around 10 million people a year to die from smoking - around 17.7% of all deaths in developing countries. And by 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six of us worldwide.

Each cigarette contains tar, which can cause lung cancer, carbon monoxide and nicotine which leading to heart disease and other gases which can cause breathing and heart problems and other cancers.

Surprisingly it's heart disease and not lung cancer or emphysema which is the main cause of death due to smoking. In 2000, the number of deaths from smoking related heart problems was nearly 1.7 million whilst the figure for lung cancer was 850,000. According to WHO at least a quarter of all deaths from various heart diseases can be put down to smoking.

American research has shown that male smokers increase their likelihood of dying from lung cancer by over 22 times and women by nearly 12 times. Smoking also increases the risk of mouth, liver, bladder and cervical cancer as the toxins take their toll. UK studies show that smokers in their 30s and 40s are five times more likely to have a heart attack than non smokers.

Pregnant smokers run the risk of miscarriage and lower birth weight children and smoking by parents has been linked to cot death as the smoke can affect the baby's lungs leading to breathing problems.

And those are just the serious problems. Smoking has also been linked to stomach ulcers, bad breath, fertility problems, a premature appearance of old age and a loss of sense of taste and smell.

Although you'll never get an ardent anti smoker to admit the hated habit has any benefits, many smokers believe that puffing away helps reduce their stress, makes them more sociable and can increase their concentration. They are aware of the health risks but believe the benefits outweigh them.

What about passive smoking?

Smoking Statistics

In Britain , a 2004 report by the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) concluded that passive smoking increased the risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%.

But the smokers' lobby group FOREST believes the research is flawed. It claims there have been more than 150 studies on passive smoking and the results are inconclusive.

And is nicotine actually addictive? In 2000, a report by the British Royal College of Physicians concluded that cigarettes were as addictive as heroin or cocaine because they had similar effects on the brain. Withdrawal symptoms were only relieved by nicotine replacement.

This is not a view shared by Dr Tage Voss, author of Smoking and Common Sense . He believes that tobacco is a habit not an addiction because smokers don't fit into the category of stereotypical drop out addicts who turn to crime to feed their addiction and take ever increasing amounts of their favoured drug in order to feel good.

As one smoker puts it: "You don't see smokers injecting huge quantities of nicotine or mugging old grannies to get money for their next fix. On the whole we're quite a sociable bunch."


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