Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking results in more than 443,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 8.6 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. Thus, for every one person who dies from smoking, 20 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.
The harmful effects of smoking extend far beyond the smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious diseases and death. Each year, an estimated 126 million Americans are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke and almost 50 thousand nonsmokers die from diseases caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
When an addicted user tries to quit, he or she experiences withdrawal symptoms including irritability, attention difficulties, sleep disturbances, increased appetite, and powerful cravings for tobacco. Treatments can help smokers manage these symptoms and improve the likelihood of successfully quitting.
Signs & Symptoms
A typical smoker will take 10 puffs on a cigarette over a period of 5 minutes that the cigarette is lit. Thus, a person who smokes about 1½ packs (30 cigarettes) daily gets 300 “hits” of nicotine each day.
- Respiratory infections
- Decreased appetite
A Success Story
“I started smoking and partying when I was 15. I became heavily involved in the occult and soon became addicted to pornography and began experimenting with homosexuality. I became pregnant and realized that I had brought myself to the end of my rope and so I began looking for help and found Adult & Teen Challenge.
“The Lord has been faithful to me and has softened my heart toward His. I experienced love that I never knew existed before. I have learned to forgive those in my past that caused my deepest wounds. I have renounced my involvement in the occult and I am breaking free from the strongholds of lust that held me in bondage for so long. The Lord is rebuilding those ancient ruins of my past life.”
Effects of Use
Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco—including cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, and chewing tobacco—contain the addictive drug nicotine. Nicotine is readily absorbed into the bloodstream when a tobacco product is chewed, inhaled, or smoked.
Upon entering the bloodstream, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.
Like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain pathways that control reward and pleasure. For many tobacco users, long-term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction—a condition of compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative consequences. Studies suggest that additional compounds in tobacco smoke, such as acetaldehyde, may enhance nicotine’s effects on the brain.
Cigarette smoking accounts for about one-third of all cancers, including 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Smokeless tobacco (such as chewing tobacco and snuff) also increases the risk of cancer, especially oral cancers. In addition to cancer, smoking causes lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and increases the risk of heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, vascular disease, and aneurysm. Smoking has also been linked to leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia. On average, adults who smoke die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
Although nicotine is addictive and can be toxic if ingested in high doses, it does not cause cancer—other chemicals are responsible for most of the severe health consequences of tobacco use. Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of chemicals such as carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia—many of which are known carcinogens. Carbon monoxide increases the chance of cardiovascular diseases. Tar exposes the user to an increased risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial disorders.
Centers for Disease Control site for Health Issues from Smoking and Tobacco Use
Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, consists of exhaled smoke and smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. In addition, secondhand smoke causes respiratory problems, such as coughing, overproduction of phlegm, and reduced lung function and respiratory infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis, in both adults and children. In fact, each year about 150,000 – 300,000 children younger than 18 months old experience respiratory tract infections caused by secondhand smoke. Children exposed to secondhand smoking are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, ear problems, and severe asthma. Furthermore, children who grow up with parents who smoke are more likely to become smokers, thus placing themselves (and their future families) at risk for the same health problems as their parents when they become adults.
Benefits of Quitting
Although quitting can be difficult, the health benefits of smoking cessation are immediate and substantial—including reduced risk for cancers, heart disease, and stroke. A 35-year-old man who quits smoking will, on average, increase his life expectancy by 5 years
Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems) are smokeless, battery operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings or other chemicals to the lungs of users without burning tobacco (the usual source of nicotine). They are typically manufactured to resemble regular tobacco cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or even everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks. More than 250 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market.While e-cigarettes are often promoted as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, little is actually known yet about the public health implications of using these devices.Another worry is the refillable cartridges used by some e-cigarettes. Users may expose themselves to potentially toxic levels of nicotine when refilling them. Cartridges could also be filled with substances other than nicotine, thus possibly serving as a new and potentially dangerous way to deliver other drugs.
Facts and Myths
Did you know nearly 80 chemicals found in cigarettes are linked to cancer? Did you know carbon monoxide found in car exhaust is also found in cigarette smoke?For more facts and myths visit Did You Know?
Surgeon General’s 50th Smoking & Health Report
The 50th anniversary report shows that the disease risks from smoking by women have risen sharply over the last 50 years and are now equal to those for men for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular diseases. Strides have been made in the reduction of tobacco use, but it will take people working together to make tobacco related disease and death a thing of the past.