So you’ve seen all the warnings about how smoking is so bad for you. But here’s the question: Why? What is it about smoking that is so dangerous? Why should you quit smoking? Let’s find out!
Different Parts of Cigarette
A cigarette is usually made up of 3 parts: First, there is the cigarette filter, this is 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. The main plant used in the manufacture of tobacco is Nicotiana Tabacum.
What happens once a cigarette is lit?
Well, the tobacco blend contains over 7000 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 – this is also called tar. The cigarette filter is able to trap some but not all of the tar.
What is Tar?
Tar is sticky and brown, resulting in that characteristic yellow stain. In addition to staining the smoker’s fingernails, it also moves into the mouth and stains the teeth, the inner part of the mouth, and also the vocal cords. The vocal cords become irritated because of the tar, making people cough reflexively. Once cigarette smoke has passed through the upper airway, it then goes to the lower airway. The lower airway is lined by cilia.
What are Cilia?
Cilia are tiny hair-like projections that beat in order to move debris and bacteria out of the lung. 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 lung.
Multiple other cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco such as Arsenic and Benzopyrene also coat the lining of the airways. This is where they significantly increase the risk of lung cancer. With the main defense of the lungs paralyzed, the cigarette smoke moves into the deepest part of the lung. These are the alveoli or the air sacs of the lung.
Normally, this is where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide using a transfer protein called hemoglobin. The hemoglobin then carries the oxygen to the rest of the body, where the body cells use it as fuel. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is also found in cigarette smoke. Carbon Monoxide is a bully. It knocks off oxygen from haemoglobin and instead takes its place. The problem here is that the body can’t use carbon monoxide as fuel. So these (body) cells starve because of the lack of oxygen. These starving cells send out inflammatory ‘SOS’ signals.
However, this backfires because the increased inflammation leads to increased mucous production. And narrowing of the airways, making it even more difficult to breathe. The remaining chemicals in cigarette smoke are also absorbed into the bloodstream. This is an important event – the bloodstream is the highway to all the organs inside the body.
Once these chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream, there is no limit to the amount of damage they can cause. And the damage from these chemicals is no longer contained to just the lungs.
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Oxidizing Chemicals in Cigarette
There are a large number of oxidizing chemicals in cigarette smoke. These chemicals are highly reactive and can damage any type of body cell.
The first thing in sight for these chemicals are the blood vessels themselves – oxidizing chemicals react with the lining of the blood vessels causing inflammation and fatty plaques. These fatty plaques narrow the blood vessels. The oxidizing chemicals also damage the vessels that supply the heart and brain with oxygen. If these critical vessels become blocked, then part of the heart muscle or the brain tissue can die.
Death of the heart muscle is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction and death of the brain tissue are called a stroke. And can often lead to permanent disability. Metals such as Arsenic and radioactive compounds like Polonium continue to travel to the other organs of the body through the blood. They significantly increase the risk of cancer other than lung cancer. For example, skin cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, and even bladder cancer.
And finally, the one chemical to rule them all, Nicotine. None of the effects that I’ve mentioned earlier sound attractive.
How does Nicotine deliver its Effects?
It is the nicotine in cigarettes that make them so addictive. Within 7 seconds of smoking a cigarette, Nicotinerich blood travels from the lungs to the brain. In the brain, the nicotine attaches to a class of receptors called the Nicotinic Acetylcholine receptors. Once these receptors are activated, they release a flurry 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. It is broken down in the liver and expelled through the urine. As soon as the Nicotine exits the body, the body misses the buzz of having these huge amounts of stimulating brain messengers rushing around.
Cravings can begin just two hours after your last smoke. Signs of nicotine withdrawal include restlessness, anxiety, frustration, anger, and even insomnia. Every time you light another cigarette, the effect of nicotine gets weaker, as your brain develops a tolerance to the drug. Now you’ll need even more Nicotine to get the same high, and cravings get even stronger. This forms the cycle of addiction.
There are thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke – we’ve 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.
What are the Effects of Smoking?
Now imagine putting your brain and your body through this kind of rollercoaster, every few hours, every day for many years. In Australia, people who smoke, smoke on average 93 cigarettes per week. In a year, that’s 4836 cigarettes, costing you as much money as 4 new iPhones.
Other than the increased risk of cancer, there are so many other long term effects of smoking. Things like a breakdown of the alveoli wall which is also called emphysema, staining and wrinkling of the skin, loss of smell and taste, impotence, and the list just goes on.
Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills its users when used exactly as intended by its manufacturers. In the US, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health found that over 95% of smokers started before the age of 21. 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.
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10 Reasons to Quit Smoking
To quit or not to quit? It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Truth be told, it’s not always that simple. If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, are in the process of quitting, or need an extra push to get started. Here are some 10 reason pointers that may help inspire you to quit smoking.
1. Smoking Kills
According to WebMD, “Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. and worldwide.” While this is the most obvious reason to quit smoking, it sometimes is still not enough, due to addiction’s dangerous ability to warp reality and inhibit logical decision-making.
Unfortunately, because some of the fatal effects of smoking take many years to become visible (e.g. lung cancer), this first reason is sadly, rather easy for young smokers to ignore.
2. Breathe easier.
An astonishing 90% of patients suffering from lung cancer have their illness attributed to smoking cigarettes. Smoking is also responsible for other respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, etc.
The general respiratory impairment associated with smoking can make it difficult to enjoy many activities. For example, smoking hurts your general ability to participate in the cardio necessary for your health.
Carbon Monoxide in cigarettes blocks the uptake of oxygen in your blood. This improves within hours of quitting. Quitting smoking can help to breathe easily and live a healthy life than others.
3. Dangerous Circulation Issues
Smoking is responsible for severe damage to nerve cells and blood vessels, which can lead to countless fatal. And life-altering circulatory and heart diseases (e.g. blood clots, Rheumatoid Arthritis, stroke, etc.). Furthermore, poor circulation impairs your body’s ability to heal wounds and other everyday functions.
4. Look Young & Energetics
Smoking is associated with multiple skin problems, especially premature facial wrinkles and constriction of blood vessels.
People are more educated than ever before on the dangers of cigarettes. This change in social tides likely also has to do with many younger generations witnessing that their parents. And grandparents are now bearing the consequences of smoking as a teenager.
Quitting smoking can help you shed the stigma which has literally isolated you to designated public smoking areas and metaphorically isolated you from non-smokers. When you’re no longer planning your day around finding an acceptable place to smoke, your social life will greatly improve.
5. Saves Money
Traditional and electronic cigarettes are very expensive. If you weren’t smoking, you could be saving up for a new car, the down payment on your first home, or your dream vacation.
If you’re searching for a motivational tool to help you quit, start a separate savings account for the money you’d otherwise be spending on tobacco. Seeing how fast that balance grows can inspire you to push forward.
Cigarettes are expensive. For example, it costs over $3,000 per year for a one-pack-per-day smoker. You will also save money on cleaning expenses, insurance premiums, etc.
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6. Minimize your stress
Don’t stress about where, when, and how you are going to take those smoking breaks. Or how you are going to survive long travel times. Use your newfound free time to focus on family, career, and life goals that matter to you.
Like this, you are saving your life, saving your money, and enjoying every moment of life with your friends, family.
Nicotine, a main ingredient of tobacco, is extremely addictive. Even just a few occasional cigarettes can be enough to turn into a lifelong addiction. Especially if you started as a teenager when your developing brain is more susceptible to nicotine’s vice-like grip.
Honestly ask yourself: How do you feel? Have you already checked in the mirror for premature wrinkles and stained teeth? Have loved ones who are being affected by your secondhand smoke. Or who will be affected by your early death—crossed your mind? Does your emotional response to this list feel stronger than your craving to light up?
7. Smile with confidence again.
Smoking daily can increase yellow film on the teeth and mouth. The yellow film on the teeth of smokers improves every time an ex-smoker brushes his or her teeth.
By quitting smoking your smile can come back.
8. Ingesting Deadly Carcinogens
Cigarettes contain hazardous chemicals. In addition to the already-harmful, addictive nicotine that are too many to list. E.g. ammonia, formaldehyde, lead, carbon monoxide, and 6,996 more.
9. Meet your soulmates
Surveys show that most single people will not even consider dating a smoker. “Kissing a smoker is like licking and ashtray,” as the popular saying goes.
The sense of smell is impaired for smokers, but nonsmokers can smell the cigarette use immediately.
When you will quit smoking, your sense of smell start improving. As your sense of smell improves, so will your sense of taste.
10. Live healthier and longer!
The body can be more forgiving than you think. The risks of heart disease, stroke, and many other medical problems eventually return to that of a NEVER smoker. Studies show that at ANY age, you will live longer if you stop smoking.
You should quit smoking because you can do it. It is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible.
So what’s the good news? Well, the number of smokers worldwide is decreasing. And with the power of the internet, help for people who want to quit smoking is just at our fingertips. With the combined effect of more informed younger people and stronger tobacco control laws. We may one day see a generation who are smoke-free.
And wouldn’t that be a monumental achievement for humanity? If you are smoking and even thinking of quitting, you are halfway there. Make the decision today.