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Smoking and Health: How Cigarette Smoke Affects The Body

by on July 31, 2012 >> 7 Comments
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Clearly, smoking is something people do for a variety of different reasons. Some may be doing it because it makes them feel better physically – at least temporarily, while others may also be doing it to satisfy psychological needs or in response to social pressures. Once they get into the habit, they may find it a hard one to break, not only because of the way their bodies may react physiologically, but also because of the millions of cues that subtly direct them to repeat the behavior ten, twenty, maybe forty times per day.

Smoking poses two basic health hazards. One is the drug-induced response the body makes to cigarette smoke. Nicotine, for instance, is capable of creating a true physiological dependence; it also creates tolerance, and tolerance may also develop to the tar and carbon monoxide in cigarettes. The other hazard is the toxic substances, or poisons, that enter the individual’s body as he or she inhales smoke. Cigarette smoke contains compounds that, when taken over many years, are quite harmful.

The average cigarette produces about one-half gram of smoke when it burns. To help determine what portions of tobacco smoke are responsible for the various diseases associated with cigarette smoking, chemists have broken down the smoke into its components and tested their effects on laboratory animals. Thus far, more than 4,000 major toxic substances have been identified in cigarette smoke, and the number is still growing.

Of all the compounds in cigarette smoke, 92 percent are gaseous, and many of these are toxic. Carbon Monoxide, one of the gases found in tobacco smoke, is considered one of the most hazardous. Carbon monoxide affects our bodies in several ways, all related to oxygen deprivation:

Carbon monoxide impairs the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, causing serious problems for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers have long believed that carbon monoxide is partly responsible for the heightened risk of heart attack and stroke among cigarette smokers. It may be the combination of carbon monoxide and nicotine that is at fault.

The remaining 8 percent of the smoke consists of solid (nongaseous) matter: ash, a tar-rich condensate, and a wet particulate matter comprising thousands of different substances. Tar is a sticky residue from burning tobacco, consisting of more than 200 chemicals which can be separated into three parts: acidic, basic, and neutral.

In animals tests, the neutral part shows by far the highest carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, activity. It contains benzopyrene, one of the deadliest carcinogens known, and many other chemicals of the same family.

The acidic part of the tarry condensate contains phenol and other materials that are not carcinogens but, some cancer researchers believe could activate “dormant” cancer cells so that they grow and spread.

The basic part of tar contains chemicals that have not been shown to pose a risk to human health.

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7 Responses to Smoking and Health: How Cigarette Smoke Affects The Body

  1. Sandy on August 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Marie, I don’t know how many times or how much more do we have to say before somebody do something about this smoking pandemic.

    The smokers are hard-pressed because of the addictive components of the cigarette, and the government are making too much money off cigarette companies to care about the actual danger of the cigarettes.

    A word for young people “Please do not start smoking! Do Not let peer pressure or anything else convince or lead you to cigarettes! It is very, very toxic, dangerous to your health and once you start it is very, very hard to stop.”

    Keep getting it out there Marie, I have been trying to get the word out too – directly to people I see smoking and also spreading the danger of cigarette smoking to young non-smokers to stay away.

    • Marie on August 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      It is a tough one Sandy, and unfortunately, we are all exposed – smokers and non-smokers alike.

      Cigarettes are designed to be addictive; the more it is craved, the more sales the owners/investors of cigarette companies make. On one side is the selfishness and greed, and on the other selflessness and loss.

      It is truly better not to start smoking, than to start and then try to quit later. It is possible, but many times harder to accomplish.
      Marie recently posted..Smoking and Health: How Cigarette Smoke Affects The BodyMy Profile

  2. Michael Davis on August 5, 2012 at 7:53 am

    People who smoke have a more difficult time breathing during strenuous exercise, and thus are less likely to exercise regularly. Women who smoke and take oral contraceptives greatly increase their risk of experiencing blood clots and/or coronary heart disease (versus using oral contraceptives alone). Smoking also decreases HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which also increases the risk of developing heart disease.
    Michael Davis recently posted..VPSMy Profile

  3. Jack Rider on August 28, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I also like to add some consequences of smoking. Tobacco smoking became a huge threat to the life of a smoker, and non-smokers as well. Some of the consequences of smoking are blindness, lung cancer, heart attack and stroke, gum diseases, bronchitis, blockage of blood vessels and the list goes on. However, folks are now started to use different way of smoking which proved to be user friendly as well as eco friendly. It is the Electronic Cigarette which became a safe and effective way of smoking. I really like this new generation of smoking which gives me the pleasure of smoking while keeping my body and the environment free of harmful cigarette smoke chemicals.

    Jack Rider

  4. Marie on October 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    I am with you on that Aaran. Our environment would certainly be better without all the chemicals emitted by cigarette smokers.
    Marie recently posted..Keeping Fit: How To Exercise And Feel Great For A LifetimeMy Profile

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