It’s a well-known fact that smoking damages your health. It’s written all over the news, all over the internet, and even all over cigarette packets themselves. But how much do people really know about what smoking can do to you? You’ll probably already know that it can cause lung cancer (in fact, smoking is responsible for around 90% of lung cancer cases, and lung cancer has one of the overall lowest survival rates of all cancers, killing over 35,000 people in the UK each year), but that’s only the beginning of it. From the UK alone, around 114,000 people die each year from smoking related illnesses.
As well as cancer of the lungs, smoking is known to cause a wide variety of other types of cancer, from cancer of the mouth, lips and throat, to cancer in the bladder, kidney and liver…and half of all smokers will eventually die from cancer. This is because the tobacco smoke inhaled from a single cigarette contains over 70 different cancer-causing substances that most people don’t even know about, such as Tar, Benzene (used to manufacture petrol), Cadmium (used to make batteries) and Nitrogen Oxide (constricting airways even when someone is not smoking, making it difficult for regular smokers to breathe properly).
Smoking can also have a very negative effect on your cardiovascular system (approximately one out of every five smoking-related deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease), and will damage the heart and blood circulation. This in turn can cause a variety of serious health problems including:
– Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
– Heart attack
– Damaged blood vessels/arteries
When smoke is inhaled, this immediately increases both blood pressure and heart rate, whilst reducing cardiac output and coronary blood flow. The carbon monoxide and various other toxins from the smoke also displaces part of the oxygen in the red blood cells, meaning that less oxygen will reach the body tissues. As this also reduces the blood flow to the brain, this means that the risk of having an ischemic stroke is doubled.
Similarly, smoking also increases cholesterol levels in the blood, resulting in a buildup of arterial plaque which gradually narrows blood vessels through time and can cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Reduced blood flow may not suupport cell growth in certain areas of the body, resulting in tissue death, which may require an amputation.
Bloodclots are also more common in smokers, as the nicotine and other toxins in the cigarettes makes blood platelets sticky, therefore more likely to clot. Narrower blood vessels also mean that less blood is able to flow to vital organs (such as the heart and brain), meaning heart attacks and strokes are more likely. If the blood flow to such organis is completely blocked, this can cause immediate death.
However, it’s not just the smokers themselves who are the victims of the harmful effects of smoking – it’s the people around them, too. In fact, second-hand smoking has been found to cause around 600,000 premature deaths every year.
As well as irritating the eyes, the lining of the nasal passages and tastebuds, those who are exposed to secondhand smoke over long periods of time are more likely to develop heart disease and cancer. Children who are often exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to develop asthma and other allergies, as well as having an increased for certain illnesses including bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.
Smoking when pregnant carries similar risks to the children. If a mother continues to smoke whilst pregnant, she increases the chances of an early pregnancy, as well as the baby being born at an abnormally low weight. The chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also dramatically increases.
So…is smoking really worth it?