Some factors increase the cause of death, and smoking is one of them. But the deaths related to smoking can be prevented. Smoking deaths are due to tobacco-causing cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease.
Different types of tobacco
All forms of tobacco are harmful to health and cigarette smoking is a common form of smoking. Other forms are:
- Hookah tobacco or hookah
- snuff tobacco
- chew tobacco
- Cigars and Cheroot
- pipe tobacco
- Bidis and clove cigarettes
- Smokeless tobacco products
Most of us know that smoking is harmful to health. Smoking can increase your risk of developing cancer and diseases, even if you smoke occasionally, the adverse effects are still there. Smoking can lead to:
- Lung cancer
- It also causes cancer of the larynx, nose, bladder, bone marrow, cervix, esophagus, kidneys, blood, mouth, throat, stomach, and rectum.
- Heart disease, including coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, and heart attacks
- Respiratory disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Weakens immunity, making you susceptible to various infectious diseases including cold, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis
- Causes economic burden
- Your breath, clothes and hands smell like tobacco
- Lowers life expectancy
Why is smoking harmful?
Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals, of which more than 250 toxic chemicals are harmful and 16 are group 1 carcinogens. Benzene (an active ingredient in cigarettes) is a potent cause of acute myeloid leukemia. Smoking affects every organ of our body and causes various diseases and conditions. The link between smoking and lung cancer is clear, as more than 90% of lung cancer cases are due to chronic smoking.
When we inhale tobacco smoke, many chemicals, including tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine, phenols, ammonia, and cancer-causing toxins, enter our bodies and cause damage to our lungs, heart, and peripheral arteries and veins.
Nicotine in tobacco causes addiction, making smoking a habit that is difficult to break. It activates Dopamine (a happy hormone) released in our brain which helps you concentrate, relieve stress and feel satisfied. Over time, when nicotine levels decrease, your brain craves more dopamine hormone and you become dependent on the nicotine.
Benefits of quitting smoking
It doesn’t matter how long or how much you’ve smoked, whatever your age, you can benefit from quitting. Even heavy smokers, who have been puffing for years, will benefit from quitting smoking. Although quitting withdrawal symptoms caused by nicotine addiction will improve over time. The following are some of the benefits of quitting smoking:
- Lower risk of cancer: As we know that smoking increases the risk of various cancers, so quitting smoking helps reduce the chances of getting cancer.
- Improves Lung Health: After more than two weeks of quitting smoking, blood circulation in our lungs improves and lung functions improve. Within a few months, you may see improvement in coughing and shortness of breath.
- Improve Heart Health: Within a few minutes of quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure drop. In 2 to 3 weeks, the narrowing of the arteries decreases and blood flow improves. Quitting smoking over time reduces the risk of heart and peripheral arterial disease.
- Restore smell and taste senses: Within a few days of quitting smoking, your senses of smell and taste will gradually improve as chemicals in the tobacco suppress the taste buds. You will start to notice the subtle taste and smell of dishes after stopping.
- Healthier family members: There is no better way to protect family members, colleagues, friends and those around you from the health risks associated with passive smoking by quitting smoking. Secondhand smoke is the tobacco smoke you accidentally inhale. Secondhand smoke can cause breathing problems, asthma and increase the risk of cancer.
- Healthy Pregnancy: Whether you are pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not indulge in smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby in the womb and increase the risk of miscarriage, labor complications, premature birth, low birth weight, and a baby born with weaker lungs and respiratory disease. It can cause infertility in both men and women, and smoking also compromises the success rate of fertility treatments (IUI and IVF).
If you are a smoker, stop smoking at least three months before becoming pregnant, as smoking affects sperm and egg production.
- It increases life expectancy so you can live longer with a healthy body.
Quitting smoking improves your health and also protects those around you. You can approach quitting smoking as a positive step towards a healthy and long life. If you’re still thinking about quitting smoking, don’t hold back and try to do it now.
Dr. Kanika Sharma Sood, Director & Clinical Lead – Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi