The effects of smoking can be very dangerous. One smoker in four shortens his life by 20 years and dies before the age of 65. Despite these alarming results, smokers often underestimate the dangers of cigarette addiction. Despite many warnings and anti-smoking campaigns, many people find it difficult to break out of the trap of addiction. They smoke because they have become physically and mentally addicted to nicotine doses. What are the risks of long-term heavy smoking? Apart from the fact that you lose a lot of money on packets of cigarettes, your skin ages faster, you have bad breath and bad smells in your clothes, there are a number of health complications, such as the risk of lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, stroke or atherosclerosis.
1. The impact of cigarette smoking on health
The cigarette is not only nicotine. There are a lot of poisonous chemicals in cigarette smoke and in the cigarette itself, including carcinogens .
Cigarettes contain, among others, tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, vinyl chloride, acetone, cadmium and phenol. Heavy cigarette smoking contributes to the development of various diseases. The three main groups of smoking disorders are cancer, lung failure, and coronary heart disease. The list of diseases caused by smoking, however, is much longer.
What is the risk of a heavy smoker? Among the health problems associated with nicotine addiction, the following are mentioned:
- cancers, e.g., lung cancer, esophageal and laryngeal cancer, lip cancer, tongue cancer, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer. Nicotine and other substances in cigarette smoke destroy the balance in the gastric mucosa and significantly increase the risk of chronic ulceration. According to various studies, the risk of stomach cancer increases from 50 to 100%. Greater increases have been seen in female smokers and are also affected by the duration and intensity of smoking. Only 10 years after quitting smoking, there is a significant reduction in the risk of cancer. Smoking can cause bladder cancer, is responsible for half of bladder cancers in men and one-third in women. The risk of developing this type of cancer is two to three times greater in smokers.
- heart and blood vessel diseases , e.g. hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, aortic aneurysm, heart attack, stroke;
- respiratory diseases, e.g., asthma, tuberculosis, influenza, chronic bronchitis;
- digestive system diseases, e.g. gastric and duodenal ulcers, intestinal hernia. Cigarette smoke can cause colon tumors to form . The risk is proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked and the number of years of smoking. According to studies, people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day are three times more likely to develop colorectal cancer and five times more likely to develop rectal cancer. Osteoporosis and menopause, by disrupting the hormonal balance of women, smoking can accelerate the onset of menopause by up to 5 years. Smoking also reduces bone density, which is characteristic of osteoporosis, and can cause severe fractures in the hip bones.
- dental diseases, e.g. periodontitis, gingivitis, dental caries, bad breath;
- eye diseases – cigarette smoke is a common cause of eye irritation, conjunctivitis, tear problems, etc. Other effects of smoking include cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. People who smoke for over 20 years are at high risk of developing macular degeneration . It is a disease that affects people over 50, depriving them of central vision. This makes it impossible to read, drive or watch TV.
- respiratory diseases – depending on the number of cigarettes smoked, smokers are two to six times more likely to develop various types of oral cancer. Tumors of the tongue, gums and palate are the most common. Other effects of smoking include yellowing of the teeth, voice alteration (smoke attacks the vocal cords), and gum disease. Passive smoking can also increase the risk of tooth decay in children, which is caused by an increase in the amount of bacteria.
- diseases of the endocrine system – cigarette smoking disrupts the functioning of the thyroid gland. Smokers are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism and the associated Graves’ disease, as well as hypothyroidism. Even if there are no obvious symptoms, smoking often negatively affects the thyroid gland. According to the World Health Organization, 30% of pancreatic cancers are caused by smoking. The carcinogens in tobacco smoke enter the pancreas through the blood or bile secreted by the liver. Pancreatic cancer is one of the cancers with the highest mortality rate. Less than 5% of patients live for more than 5 years after the diagnosis of the disease.
- perinatal diseases – smoking during pregnancy poses numerous risks. The risk of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages and premature births is rapidly increasing. Keep in mind that prematurity is a major cause of infant mortality, neurological and developmental problems. Women who smoke actively or passively during pregnancy are more likely than other women to give birth to immunocompromised babies, who weigh on average 150 grams less than other newborns. The effects of smoking during pregnancy are also more likely to cause asthma in children.
- reproductive system diseases – smoking increases the risk of cancer of the cervix and ovaries. Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynecological cancer. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of sexual impotence. By negatively affecting the cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems, nicotine doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction. The more prolonged and intense smoking is, the more it affects the sexual health of a smoker. Tobacco smoke also negatively affects sperm quality, reducing the quantity and quality of sperm it contains. Quitting smoking is generally associated with improved sexual health.
- skin diseases – like UV rays, smoking accelerates the aging process of the skin, especially the skin of the face. Cigarette smoke activates the MMP-1 gene, which is responsible for skin changes: loss of elasticity, wrinkles, visible pores, unhealthy looking skin.
Of course, the above list of diseases is not complete. Along with smoking, the risk of developing diabetes, osteoporosis , immunity decreases, and the susceptibility to various types of infections and infections increases. It is estimated that smokers are 20 times more likely to develop cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus or larynx than nicotine abstainers.
In the US, smoking causes lung cancer in almost 85% of cases. How does nicotine affect the heart? Nicotine attaches to nicotinic receptors, thereby increasing blood pressure, making the heart beat faster and increasing the oxygen consumption of the heart muscle, which can result in a heart attack. Cigarette smoke also damages blood vessel walls, accelerates the development of atherosclerosis and causes metaplasia of the bronchial epithelium. The ciliary epithelium in the bronchi under the influence of tobacco smoke turns from the squamous epithelium and cannot clean the lungs of impurities. Thus, obstructive pulmonary disease occurs.
Women who start smoking before the age of 18 and smoke 20 cigarettes a day are at increased risk of becoming infertile. Pregnant women who smoke must take into account complications, such as sudden death of a newborn, giving birth to a child with low birth weight, fetal hypoxia or miscarriage. Smoking tobacco has a negative effect on the musculoskeletal system and the bone formation process. Smokers are more likely to suffer from rheumatism and osteoporosis, as well as degenerative spinal injuries. Nicotine promotes greater production of stomach acid, and thus – gastric ulcer disease. Nicotine also destabilizes the endocrine system, e.g. the thyroid gland . The effects of nicotine can be multiplied and multiplied, such as impotence, cataracts, macular degeneration, pneumonia and bronchial asthma.
2. The effects of passive smoking
Not only is active smoking dangerous. Experts warn that secondhand smoke can be just as dangerous. The toxic components contained in cigarette smoke have a number of adverse effects on the body not only of smokers, but also on the bodies of people in their company, the passive smokers.
Passively inhaled tobacco smoke contains 35 times more carbon dioxide and 4 times more nicotine than the smoke entering the lungs of active smokers. As statistics show, smoking in the presence of non-smokers is extremely popular. It is estimated that as many as 80% of people smoke among non-smokers, including 48% with children and 27% with pregnant women. In total, 25% of Poles are exposed to passive smoking in their homes.
It has been proven many times that passive smoking, as well as active smoking, contribute to death and to diseases that lead to permanent disability. It is estimated that 1,000 people die every year in Poland due to passive smoking, and about 79,000 in the European Union.
What do smoking parents expose their children to? They not only shape the smoking habit in young people, but also increase the likelihood of children developing lung cancer, ischemic heart disease or chronic otitis media. In addition, asthma is also frequent, both in children and adults, as well as aggravated allergic symptoms.
Cigarette smoke contains many allergens, hence, for example, irritation of the nasal mucosa, burning and watery eyes, coughing, asthma, allergies or recurrent respiratory infections. What other consequences does smoking have for smokers themselves? Accelerates skin aging. The skin becomes gray, inelastic, wrinkles , acne, psoriasis appear . “Tobacco face”.
Nicotinism delays wound healing. It causes discoloration on the teeth, yellow nails, bad breath . The risk of platelet aggregation increases and arterial vessels constrict. Cigarettes alter the metabolism of some drugs. Regardless of the type of tobacco – cigarette, pipe, cigar – smoking is extremely dangerous. Nicotine is slowly destroying a person. This is one of the most popular poisons in the 21st century. It is a pity that people who smoke for the first time postpone the prospect of contracting a tobacco-related disease. They fall into the trap of an addiction which is difficult to break out of later. Maybe the awareness of how much they could save on cigarettes without smoking will become some kind of motive to fight the nicotine addiction ?
A person who is exposed to constant inhalation of cigarette smoke develops a reduction in immunity. It turns out that the so-called passive smoker inhales thirty-five times more carbon dioxide per smoker, and also four times more nicotine than an active smoker. Experts sound the alarm, showing that secondhand smoke can be as harmful to health as normal cigarette smoking. Pregnant women who are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke are much more prone to miscarriages, while babies often suffer from birth defects. In many cases, there is the so-called cot death.
2.1. What harmful substances are in tobacco smoke?
Tobacco smoke contains a lot of harmful chemicals (it turns out there are over 4000 !!!). Among the particularly dangerous carcinogenic compounds, it is worth mentioning: benzene, ammonia, hydrogen, phenol, nitrosamines, nitrogen oxides, nitrogen, nicotine, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, ketones, vinyl chloride. Substances in cigarette smoke have a stimulating effect on the bronchial glands. There is an increased production of mucus and impaired cilia movement. The result of this condition is often damage to the body’s first line of defense, which protects us against various types of viruses, microbes, pathogens responsible for the development of respiratory infections. If a passive smoker develops bacterial colonization of the accumulated mucus in the bronchi, it may become inflamed. In many cases, passive smoking results in an allergic disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, passive smokers often develop heart disease, asthma, lung cancer, and lung-related health problems.
2.2. Cancer caused by passive smoking
Few people realize that cancer is often caused by passive smoking! Carcinogenic substances contained in cigarette smoke constitute a huge group of compounds that cause the process of cancer development. They effectively irritate and also mutate the genetic material of a passive smoker. Additionally, they effectively lower the work of the immune system. Particularly dangerous compounds accelerating neoplastic processes are substances such as: chromium, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, acetaldehyde, fatty acid esters, radioactive isotopes, phenol. N-nitrosonornicotine contained in nicotine smoke affects the development of cancers of the oral cavity and esophagus, 2-naphthylamine and 4-aminobiphenyl makes patients suffer from bladder cancer,
The above-mentioned substances have a strong carcinogenic effect. After penetrating the lungs, they enter the blood, from where they enter other organs and tissues of the body. A large part of them, along with saliva, goes to the digestive system.
These substances have a direct effect on the cells of the mucosa of the respiratory system and the upper gastrointestinal tract.
2.3. Passive smoking and hearing problems
Passive smoking, in addition to cancer, can also cause hearing problems. In order to determine the impact of passive smoking on teenagers’ hearing, scientists from New York conducted a study on 1.5 thousand people. people aged 12 to 19. All young people have undergone hearing tests related to the ability to pick up sounds of different pitches.
The specialists took blood from the study participants to determine the level of cotinine, a compound formed when nicotine breaks down. A high concentration of this substance indicates that a person actively smokes cigarettes, while a low concentration indicates that a person has been exposed to cigarette smoke (it is equivalent to so-called passive smoking).
The research results turned out to be extremely surprising. Teenagers who spent a lot of time among smokers were more likely to develop hearing problems because they could not pick up low-frequency sounds. Twelve percent of passive smokers tested had a hearing problem (partial or severe, depending on the ear). Only 8% of children who were not exposed to cigarette smoke had hearing problems.