Cigarette smoking is a known health hazard. While cigar and other means of tobacco smoking, as in pipes, are not as common as cigarette smoking, the dangers are the same. Some new evidence suggests that tobacco smoking through a hookah (‘hubbly bubbly’) may be more toxic than cigarettes and cigars. Most cigarette smokers are well aware of the dangers and with warnings on the packaging, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to the potentially fatal consequences of cigarette smoking.
Most smokers at some point or the other hold on to the belief that they are immune to the dangers of cigarette smoking – ‘it won’t happen to me’, ‘I will quit soon’, ‘I am a light smoker’. However, the most serious consequences of smoking can strike at any time, irrespective of the number of cigarettes consumed in a day or for the period one is smoking. Individual susceptibility to the toxic compounds means that a light smoker smoking for less than a year may develop health related complications while a heavy, long term smoker may be unaffected.
It is accepted that smokers who start smoking from an early age, smoke for prolonged periods of their life or ‘heavy’ smokers will be more at risk. Smoking lighter offers a false sense of protection – light cigarettes (low nicotine and tar) are just as dangerous as heavier cigarettes. Tobacco contains nicotine which is highly addictive. It is this addiction that compels a smoker to continue smoking leading to prolonged periods of cigarette smoking and possibly even heavier daily consumption. Apart from the nicotine, burning tobacco also releases a host of other harmful substances like carbon monoxide (similar to fumes released by car exhausts) and cyanide (a well known, rapid acting poison).
Harmful Effects of Cigarette Smoking
Tobacco smoking will :
- Reduce the oxygen supply to the heart, brain and other organs in the body.
- Lead to respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema and aggravate asthma.
- Increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
- Affect the peripheral circulation (hands and feet).
- Contribute towards hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, infertility and erectile dysfunction.
- Cause premature wrinkling of the skin and staining of the teeth.
- Aggravate acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD), oesophagitis and peptic ulcers.
- Result in a host of complications (to both mother and child) in pregnant and breastfeeding woman including :
- Low birth weight,
- Preterm delivery (premature baby)
- Bleeding during pregnancy,
- Mental retardation and/or
- Other birth defects.
Smoking and Cancer
Tobacco smoke contains many carcinogenic compounds – these are substances that are known to cause cancer. While throat and lung cancer are the most common types of cancer seen in smokers, the risk of developing cancer at other sites in the body also increases with cigarette smoking.
Even after quitting smoking, a person is at a higher risk of developing cancer for up to 10 years after they stop. A family history of cancer or previous case of cancer means that you are at a greater risk and with cigarette smoking, the risk increases substantially.
The only way to avoid the harmful effects of smoking is to quit immediately. Cigarette filters and other devices to reduce tar in cigarettes are useless. The limited protection, if any, is insignificant as you will continue to inhale the smoke from the burning cigarette. There are a host of options to assist you with quitting smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy, pharmaceutical drugs, support programs and hypnosis may be useful to quit smoking but ultimately, quitting depends on individual willpower and the desire to kick the habit.