How smoking takes a toll on your health

Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. Smoking generates more than 7,000 chemicals. Many of these are poisonous and at least 69 of them can cause cancer.

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Smoking nearly affects all organs of the body and harms a person's overall health.

By Dr Vikas Maurya

Smoking is injurious to health! Smoking tobacco is broadly recognized by the medical community as well as the general public as a major public health hazard. Regrettably, despite this smoking has received social acceptance worldwide. Ever wondered what happens to your lungs when you smoke and what are the side effects of smoking cigarettes? Note that smoking is the single most important preventable risk to human health and an important cause of early deaths worldwide. In India, among tobacco use, smoking is one of the major causes of deaths and diseases, accounting for millions of such cases

What makes smoking cigarettes dangerous?

Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. Smoking generates more than 7,000 chemicals. Many of these are poisonous and at least 69 of them can cause cancer.

What about cigars, hooks and pipes?

Many of the ingredients are found in cigars, pipes & hookahs. As compared to cigarettes, Cigars have a higher level of carcinogens, toxins, and tar. With hookah pipes, people are likely to inhale more smoke than from a cigarette. Hookah smoke has many toxic compounds and exposes to more toxic carbon monoxide (CO) gas than cigarettes. Hookahs also produce more second hand smoke (SHS).

What are the dangers of bidi consumption?

In India ‘Bidi’ consumption is 7-8 times more common than conventional cigarettes and when compared bidis produce equal or higher levels of nicotine, tar, and other toxic chemicals. After inhalation, these compounds not only reach lungs but are absorbed and can affect almost all organs of the body.

What are the health effects of smoking?

Smoking nearly affects all organs of the body and harms a person’s overall health. The various adverse effects of smoking are :

Cancer – Apart from lung (most deadliest), oropharynx, larynx (voice box), and windpipe cancer it can cause cancer almost anywhere in our body. This includes cancer in the bladder, food pipe, stomach, large intestine, cervix, kidney, liver, pancreas and blood cancer.

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease – characterized by shortness of breath, cough which is progressive
  • Acute attacks of asthma and thereby increasing morbidity and mortality.
  • Also increased the incidence or severity of common cold, influenza, pneumonia, lung fibrosis, lung hemorrhages
  • Can cause spontaneous development of air leak from the lung leading to lung collapse.
  • Cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke.

It is also a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and can make sugar control difficult if not stopped. Smoking with diabetes has higher risks for serious complications including heart & kidney diseases, eye problems, neuropathy and vascular complications.

  • Infertility among men and women.
  • Increase incidence of premature deliveries, still birth, sudden infant death syndrome, and ectopic pregnancy in women.
  • Bone weakness and increases risk of fractures in women of child bearing age.
  • Can also affect teeth and gums and can result in tooth loss.
  • Also one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis, which is a crippling joint disorder.
  • Increase risk of tuberculosis (Published in International journal of Tuberculosis and Lung diseases by Maurya V et al)

Apart from this smoking also :

  • Increases absenteeism from work
  • Increase health care utilization
  • An important burden on the country’s economic costs.

What exactly is meant by second hand smoke?

Risk from tobacco smoke is not limited to the smoker alone but it also affects people around the smoker and these people are at higher risk of developing diseases related to tobacco. This is called second hand smoke or passive smoking. The risk of lung cancer increases by 30% by passive smoking and this also contributes to work absenteeism in non-smoking adults due to respiratory illnesses like bronchitis, respiratory infections.

How to quit smoking

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of smoking related diseases and can add years to our life. Quitting not only decreases the risk of heart attacks but also reduces the risk of stroke, cancers and other disorders. Quit smoking clinics where smokers are helped in quitting smoking by proper counseling and recommended medications are the need of the hour.

I as a doctor and a responsible citizen, believe there is a need to increase and much harsher government regulation on smoking. The addiction that gives only diseases and increases countries economic costs seems to be unacceptable. The tobacco Industry argument that they bring revenues to the country is nothing else but a false propaganda being propagated as the costs involved in treating the diseases caused by smoking is enormous and runs in billions of rupees. Secondly the loss of humanity is priceless and irreversible.

The author is Director & Head, Department of Pulmonology & Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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