Most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer, but it can also cause many other cancers and illnesses. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related. Every year, smoking kills more than 276,000 men and 142,000 women. Since 1960 deaths from lung cancer among women have increased by more than 400%, exceeding breast cancer deaths in the mid-1980s. In 1994, 64,300 women died from lung cancer and 44,300 died from breast cancer. Women who smoke increase their risk of dying from lung cancer by nearly 12 times and the risk of dying from bronchitis and emphysema by more than 10 times. Men who smoke increase their risk of death from lung cancer by more than 22 times and from bronchitis and emphysema by nearly 10 times. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women. Every year in the U.S. premature deaths from smoking take more than five million years from
the potential lifespan of those who have died. Annually, exposure to secondhand smoke (or environmental tobacco smoke) causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among American adults. Scientific studies also link secondhand smoke with heart disease. Secondhand Smoke
Cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemical compounds and at least 400 toxic substances. When you inhale, a cigarette burns
at 700°C at the tip and around 60°C in the core. This heat breaks down the tobacco to produce various toxins. As a cigarette
burns, the residues are concentrated towards the butt. The products that are most damaging are tar (which is a
carcinogen – asubstance that causes cancer) nicotine (addictive and increases cholesterol levels), carbon
monoxide (reduces oxygen in the body), compounds in the gas and particulates (cause chronic obstructive pulmonary
disorder – COPD).
The damage caused by smoking relates to the number of cigarettes smoked, whether the cigarette has a filter (do not use
this as an excuse to smoke), and how the tobacco has been prepared. Research shows that smoking reduces life expectancy by
seven to eight years on average. Therefore, statistically speaking, each cigarette shortens a smoker’s life by around 11
minutes. Non-smokers and ex-smokers can also look forward to a healthier old age than smokers. The major diseases caused by
are: cardiovascular disease (the main cause of death due to smoking), hardening of the arteries, coronary thrombosis (a blood
clot in the arteries supplying the heart – which can lead to a heart attack – around 30 per cent are caused by smoking,
cerebral thrombosis (bloackage of the vessels to the brain which can lead to collapse, stroke and paralysis). If the kidney
arteries are affected, high blood pressure or kidney failure results. Blockage of the blood supply to the legs may lead to
gangrene and amputation. Smokers tend to develop coronary thrombosis 10 years earlier than non-smokers, and make up 9 out of 10 heart bypass patients.
As everyone knows, smokers are more likely to get cancer than non-smokers. This is particularly true of lung, throat, and mouth cancer, which hardly ever affect non-smokers. The link between smoking and lung cancer is clear and undisputed. Ninety percent of lung cancer cases are due to smoking, period, point. Only 0.5 per cent of people who’ve never touched a cigarette
develop lung cancer making it a rare disease among non-smokers. One in ten moderate smokers and almost one in five heavy smokers (more than 15 cigarettes a day) will die of lung cancer. The more cigarettes smoked in a day, and the longer
you’ve smoked, the higher your risk of lung cancer. Similarly, the risk rises the deeper you inhale and the earlier in life you started smoking. After the cessation of smoking, it takes approximately 15 years before the risk of lung cancer drops to the same as that of a non-smoker. If you smoke, the risk of contracting mouth cancer is four times higher than for a non-smoker. Other types of cancer that are more common in smokers are cancer of the bladder cancer, esophagus, kidneys, pancreas, and cervix.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a collective term for a group of conditions that block airflow and make breathing more difficult, such as emphysema (damage to the air sacs, known as the alveoli, with proressive shortness of breath), chronic bronchitis (defined as coughing with a lot of mucus that continues for at least three months). These conditions lead to a prolonged painful death ending with asphyxiation (a blue face and starved for oxygen). Smoking is the most common cause of COPD and is responsible for 80 per cent of cases. Statistically 94 per cent of pack per day smokers have some emphysema when the lungs are examined after death, while only 10 per cent of non-smokers have and sign of it. COPD typically starts between the ages of 35 and 45.
Lung damage from COPD is not reversible, but quitting at any stage reduces the rate of decline in lung capacity and can make the difference in the end between dying of this complication or not. In smokers, the rate of decline in lung function can be three times the usual rate. As lung function declines, shortness of breath begins. Then when the condition progresses, severe breathing problems can require hospital care. The final stage is death from slow and progressive asphyxiation.