Dangers of cigarette smoking

Many times we have seen on television adverts about side effects of smoking. In some adverts, it is shown that one shouldn’t smoke especially around children and non-smokers. But companies like Marlboro continue to produce them. Why? Because they know people are addicted and will continue to buy. They are more interested in making money than in people’s health otherwise they would have stopped making cigarettes a long time ago.

A cigarette usually contains tobacco, a psychoactive drug. A psychoactive drug is any substance that affects our brain function and causes changes in the body, mood and behaviour.

There’s no safe number of cigarettes you can smoke. Even one cigarette a day, every day causes health complications. More than 7000 dangerous chemicals are present in tobacco smoke which includes ammonia and carbon monoxide. There are other ways of smoking tobacco such as by pipe and hookah. But no matter what method is used, they are all detrimental to our health.

The first side effect occurs when one starts smoking is addiction. Nicotine, the cause of the addiction is naturally present in tobacco plants. The addiction it causes in smokers is similar to those taking drugs such as cocaine. Once you start it, you can’t stop. People will be ready to spend lots of money just to buy a packet of cigarettes. Nicotine is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the brain in seconds. The nicotine is what will make the smoker feel energized but as it wears off, the person will crave more. This is the reason smokers find it extremely difficult to quit smoking. Without it they get irritated and depressed.

Inhaling the tobacco smoke affects the respiratory system. It can cause lung cancer, affecting the airways and small air sacks inside the lungs. Other nonreversible conditions include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Pregnant women who smoke can end up having a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or the baby can be born with deformities such as cleft lip or cleft palate. Men who smoke also risk erectile dysfunction.

Nicotine also makes the blood vessels narrower, thus restricting the flow of blood. This causes damage to the blood vessels which can lead to peripheral artery disease. It also increases blood pressure and blood clotting which can result in a stroke.

Smoking can also result in other types of cancers such as skin cancer, mouth cancer, pancreatic cancer and affects insulin which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Another issue is that non-smokers can also be affected. This is known as second-hand smoke which is a mixture of the smoke from the cigarette and the smoke released from the lungs of smokers. It remains in the air for hours even after a person has stopped smoking. When involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers, it can still cause cancer and respiratory infections. That’s why in some buildings, smoking isn’t allowed or a separate room is allocated to the smokers.

Gradual quitting of smoking is known as smoking cessation. How does one achieve that? One can do it without assistance from healthcare professionals but that would take a great will power to overcome the craving from nicotine. However, assistance can be obtained from doctors through medication such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and counselling. According to research, smoking has declined in the developed countries but is going higher in the developing part of the world. This could be due to education and awareness of the dangers of smoking.

Though many different types of cigarettes are produced today, they can still affect our health in the same way. Just like drugs can kill, so also cigarette smoking can kill not only the smokers but even the people around them.

Garima Nabh is the founder of New Age Magazine.

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