Smoking And Health

smoking and health There are no health benefits and numerous health risks from cigarette smoking. In the 1940s few people, including doctors, recognized the magnitude of health risks associated with cigarette smoking. But 20 years later cigarette smoking was a known and publicly identified risk factor for numerous health conditions and the primary cause of heart disease and lung cancer. In the 1965 cigarette smoking in the United States peaked with about 45 percent of American adults being smokers; by the early 2000s, only 23 percent of American adults smoked. However, that 23 percent represents 48 million people who have significantly increased risk for cardiovascular disease (cvd), chronic lung disease, and cancer. Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States.


One method of representing the amount of cigarette smoke exposure an individual has had is the "pack year." This calculation expresses the number of packs of cigarettes a person smokes each day times the number of years the person has smoked. A person who has smoked for 10 pack years may have smoked half a pack a day for 20 years, one pack a day for 10 years, or two packs a day for five years. The higher the number of pack years, the greater exposure and more significant the risk of pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.

How Smoking Affects the Body and Health

Cigarette smoking affects every cell in the body beginning within seconds of the first inhalation from a cigarette. Nicotine contracts blood vessels, increases heart rate, raises blood pressure, and activates neurotransmitters in the brain that result

in CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM stimulation to produce a combined sense of exhilaration and alertness. With each inhalation of cigarette smoke, tar makes its way to the delicate alveoli deep within the LUNGS, clogging them and preventing them from exchanging oxygen. Other chemicals in the smoke irritate the bronchi, causing an increase in mucus production and narrowing of the bronchial openings. Carbon monoxide beats out oxygen to bind with HEMOGLOBIN in the red blood cells (ery-throcytes), cutting by up to 60 percent the amount of oxygen each breath carries into the blood circulation. The combined effects of these actions and the chemicals that enter the bloodstream affect cellular METABOLISM in countless ways. Dozens of these chemicals are carcinogenic; they cause cells within the body to develop into cancers. Some of the effects linger for hours after the cigarette and compound with further smoking.

Cigarette smoking and CVD The leading health consequence of cigarette smoking is CVD. Repeated exposure to nicotine causes permanent changes in the cells that form the lining of the arteries, making the arteries vulnerable to ATHEROSCLEROTIC PLAQUE deposits and, over time, ATHEROSCLEROSIS, CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD), and PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE (PVD). Persistent nicotine exposure also causes the arteries to stiffen and lose FLEXIBILITY. These changes lead to HYPERTENSION (high blood pressure) and increased risk for HEART ATTACK and STROKE. The strain on the heart can eventually cause HEART FAILURE.

Cigarette smoking and cancer The primary form of cancer associated with cigarette smoking is lung cancer. However, cigarette smoking increases the risk for various forms of cancer, including oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, ESOPHAGEAL CANCER, PANCREATIC CANCER, BLADDER CANCER, PROSTATE CANCER,

BREAST CANCER, RENAL CANCER, STOMACH CANCER, and LIVER CANCER. The burning of a cigarette releases smoke that contains more than 4,000 chemicals, dozens of which are known carcinogens (substances that cause cancer).

Cigarette smoking and chronic pulmonary conditions Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of numerous chronic pulmonary conditions, including CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD), chronic BRONCHITIS, and nonallergic ASTHMA. The damage that results from COPD is irreversible and progressive, often leading to permanent disability.

Cigarette smoking and healing The changes that take place in the cells with cigarette smoking slow cellular metabolism, limiting the ability of cells to grow and divide. These functions are essential for HEALING after injury or surgery. As well, lungs damaged by cigarette smoking are unable to deliver adequate oxygen to the blood circulation, restricting a fuel source necessary for cell function. The effects of cigarette smoking on healing are so significant that most surgeons will not perform elective (nonemergency) operations on people who smoke. It is necessary to be smoke free for two to four weeks to mitigate enough of smoking's deleterious action on cellular function to allow effective healing.

Cigarette smoking, fertility, and pregnancy

Cigarette smoking affects sperm production in men and OVULATION in women. Smoking during PREGNANCY limits the amount of oxygen the developing fetus receives, affecting fetal growth and development. The babies of women who smoke during pregnancy tend to be 10 to 20 percent smaller at birth than the babies of women who do not smoke. Low birth weight is a health risk for the infant.

Smoking and Preventable Disease

Nearly all of the health consequences associated with cigarette smoking are preventable by not smoking. People who never smoke enjoy the strongest preventive benefit. People who smoke and quit can, over time, restore their health risk for many conditions to near normal. Health conditions such as COPD, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, and bladder cancer are rare in nonsmokers. Other factors such as EATING HABITS and physical inactivity contribute to CVD, though not smoking removes a significant factor from an individual's health risk profile.


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