Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, totaling more than 7 million deaths annually including 1.2 million deaths from second-hand smoke exposures. At least 30 more smokers are suffering from smoking-related severe diseases for every death from smoking complications.
Nicotine is the addictive chemical found in tobacco smoke that compels smokers to continue smoking. In addition to nicotine, smokers absorb around 7,000 additional compounds in cigarette smoke. Some of these substances are chemically active and cause significant and harmful changes in the body.
How the chemicals in tobacco affect your health:
- Nicotine causes veins and arteries to constrict. This can harm your heart by making it work harder and faster, slowing your circulation and reducing oxygen to your feet and hands.
- Carbon monoxide deprives your heart of the oxygen it requires to circulate blood throughout your body. Your airways swell over time, allowing less air into your lungs.
- Tar is a sticky material that, like soot in a chimney, coats your lungs.
- The hair-like cells in your airways are paralyzed and killed by phenols. These cells sweep the lining of your airways clean and protect them from infection.
- Tobacco smoke contains tiny particles that irritate your throat and lungs, resulting in a smoker’s cough.’ This causes you to create more mucus and harms your lung tissue.
- Ammonia and formaldehyde cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
- Carcinogens cause your cells to grow improperly or too quickly. This can lead to the formation of cancer cells.
Tobacco in all forms is dangerous, and there is no safe level of tobacco exposure. Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your brain, heart, and other organs within 10 seconds after your first puff. Tobacco use affects practically every organ in the body and increases your risk of several diseases.
What Smoking Tobacco Will Do to Your Body?
Tobacco smoking is linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also raises the risk of TB, some eye illnesses, and immune system problems such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Smoking can weaken the immune system, increasing the likelihood of bacterial and viral infections. Tobacco use raises the risk of gum disease, tooth loss, and tooth sensitivity. When a person has a gum injury, smoking makes it more difficult for their gums to heal. Fertility problems also arise from tobacco smoking. Women smokers experience early menopause and are risking osteoporosis.
Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.
It can cause stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease. It also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disorders, more severe asthma, respiratory complaints, and slower lung growth in children.
Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. (2020). What are the effects of smoking and tobacco? Department of Health and Aged Care. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/about-smoking-and-tobacco/what-are-the-effects-of-smoking-and-tobacco
CDC. (2022, March 30). Health Effects of Smoking and Tobacco Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/health_effects/index.htm
WHO. (2022, May 25). Tobacco. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco