|Nicotine doesn't cause cancer. There are at
least 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, 43 of which have been proven to cause cancer.
Nicotine is not one of them. Nicotine replacement as gum or patch is safe and effective.
Nicotine isn't always addictive. Smoking nicotine is addictive
because it is delivered so quickly to your brain. Nicotine from cigarette smoke enters the
body through the lungs, "upstream" from the brain, and travels directly to the
brain in just 7-10 seconds via the arteries. In contrast, nicotine in a patch enters the
body through the skin, slowly, "downstream" from the brain, and is diluted and
broken down by the liver before eventually reaching the brain. Patches aren't addictive.
"Light" cigarettes are just as harmful as regular
ones. "Light" cigarettes have tiny holes just where your fingers hold them. Why?
When you inhale, you get full-strength smoke. But when just the end of the filter is
inserted into a "smoking machine" to determine the tar, nicotine, and carbon
monoxide content, the smoke is diluted by air entering through those holes. What's more,
people inhale deeper and more frequently after switching from "regular" to
"light" cigarettes, in order to keep the same average level of nicotine in their
1 in 2 smokers will die from their habit. (and for every
smoker who dies of lung cancer, 5 will die from some other disease) True or false? 20% of
all deaths in North America are caused by cigarette smoking. One in two smokers will die
from their habit, losing an average of 15 years of life. One third of all deaths in middle
age (ages 35-69) are caused by cigarettes. Incredible, but: True. True. True.
Smoking doesn't cause just lung cancer. It contributes to
back pain, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), and male impotence. It affects the
circulation, "hardening the arteries", and also creates low-level carbon
monoxide poisoning. Together, these decrease the delivery of oxygen to every part of the
body including discs in the spine. Smokers have more back pain than non-smokers, and heal
Second-hand smoke causes many diseases in children,
including ear infections, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and SIDS (sudden infant death
syndrome). Smoke in an infant's household quadruples the chances of a SIDS death (sudden
infant death syndrome). Each year in the United States second-hand smoke causes an
estimated 284 to 364 deaths in children from house fires and lung infections. Also, it
causes between 354,000 and 2.2 million ear infections in children, as well as 260,000 to
436,000 episodes of bronchitis and 115,000 to 190,000 episodes of pneumonia. A non-smoking
spouse of a regular smoker has a 20% increase in their chances of developing lung cancer,
and a 30% increase in their chance of developing heart disease.
The actual benefits of quitting. A 42-year old male smoking
20 or more cigarettes a day has about a 1 in 5 chance of dying within 17 years. If they
quit, that risk is reduced to 1 in 10.
Cravings may not be due to nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine
withdrawal is a physical affliction which lasts for two or three weeks. Beyond that
period, "cravings" are entirely based on psychological factors: exposure to
common "triggers" to smoking, and lack of alternative ways of coping with
There are as many ex-smokers alive as there are smokers. In
Canada --and the United States is very similar-- 47% of the people who have ever smoked
and are still alive haven't smoked in the past six months. That means that for every
smoker, there's an ex-smoker.
A definition of nicotine dependence
Mayo Clinic Health Education
You may be dependent on
nicotine if you have used tobacco for at least one month and experience one or more of the
- You have made a serious,
but unsuccessful, attempt to stop using tobacco or permanently reduce the amount you use.
- Your attempts to stop
smoking have led to physical withdrawal symptoms (including a craving for tobacco,
anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, headaches, drowsiness
and stomach upset).
- You have continued to use
tobacco even when you have a serious physical problem (such as cardiovascular or
respiratory disease) that you know is worsened by tobacco.
- You develop a
"tolerance" to tobacco. A certain dose of the drug (in this case, a particular
number of cigarettes that you smoke during the day) produces less effect over time;
increasing doses are necessary to achieve a desired sensation.
In all these criteria, the central element of addiction is that the
substance controls your behavior by producing temporary alterations in your mood when it
is not in your system.
The smoking of tobacco, in cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe,
is a habit that meets many of the criteria that define an addiction. For some smokers, it
provides a relief from anxiety and tension; but for others, it becomes a physical and
psychological burden. Cigar and pipe smoking, although they present some hazards to
health, are thought to be less dangerous to health than cigarette smoking.
Cigarette smoking damages the lungs, blood vessels, and, to
a lesser extent, other organs, such as the heart.
Cancer of the lung is a serious health hazard; the peak of
its incidence in men occurs in the 55 to 65 age group (when 1 in 7 deaths results from
lung cancer). Approximately 2 out of every 5 heavy smokers die before the age of 65. In
women who smoke, the highest mortality rate occurs 10 years earlier than in men, and 1
death in 3 caused by lung cancer will be that of a woman.
People who smoke not only damage their own health, but also
harm others. For instance, a pregnant woman who smokes harms her unborn child; children
exposed to smoke have more respiratory illnesses; a person who suffers from heart disease
may be adversely affected by other persons' smoke; and people who live or work in smoky
environments have an increased risk of developing respiratory ailments. In the last
several years, many governmental agencies and private companies have instituted policies
that limit or ban smoking in public areas.
Although the sale of cigarettes to persons below the age of
18 is not allowed in the United States and other countries, tobacco remains one of the
most easily obtained addictive drugs.
Q: What are the harmful
substances in tobacco and what do they do?
A: There are four main groups of
dangerous substances in tobacco smoke. Nicotine is the substance that causes addiction. It
stimulates the release of epinephrine and other substances in the body that cause an
increase in pulse rate, a rise in blood pressure, and a narrowing of the blood vessels in
the skin. Epinephrine also causes an increase in fatty substances in the blood and makes
blood platelets (factors in blood clotting) stickier and therefore more likely to form
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas produced by the
incomplete burning of tobacco. In the lungs, it combines with hemoglobin in the blood and
thus prevents the hemoglobin from carrying its full quota of oxygen throughout the
circulation. It reduces a person's physical fitness and also acts as a poison.
Various substances in tobacco irritate the lining of the
bronchi, inducing spasm and increasing bronchial secretions. At the same time, these
irritants damage cells that usually sweep the secretions out of the lungs. This increases
the likelihood of developing bronchitis.
Cancer-producing substances are present in the tar in
Q: Is there any way of reducing
the dangers of cigarette smoking?
A: Yes. Obviously, the best way of
avoiding the dangers of cigarette smoking is to give up the habit. Cigarettes, preferably
with filters, should be smoked to a long stub, not a short one. Removing the cigarette
from the mouth between puffs helps reduce the amount of smoke that is inhaled. Nicotine
chewing gum is of moderate value as an adjunct to behavioral or psychological therapy for
physically dependent smokers who wish to quit entirely. Recently transdermal continuous
low-level nicotine systems have become available, allowing a replacement of part of the
nicotine level obtained by smoking. These nicotine patches have been more effective than
the gum. The patches are contraindicated in nonsmokers, pregnant women, and patients with
a recent heart attack, life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances, or unstable angina.
Q: What effect does smoking
during pregnancy have on the fetus?
A: Babies born to mothers who smoke
are 5 to 13 ounces (140 to 364 g) lighter on average than those born to nonsmoking
mothers. Also, pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage, stillborn
baby, or infant that dies soon after birth. Twice as many premature babies are born to
smoking mothers as to nonsmoking mothers. Evidence also suggests that by the age of 11 the
children of mothers who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy are slightly
shorter and slightly below average in reading, math, and general ability than children of
Q: What are the effects of
smoking on the lungs?
A: Chronic bronchitis and,
eventually, emphysema commonly occur in heavy smokers, and a morning cough is a common
feature of all smokers. Early lung damage can be detected by pulmonary function tests
before there is any obvious shortness of breath.
Among persons who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, lung
cancer occurs 20 times more frequently than in nonsmokers. The risk is increased in those
who smoke high-tar cigarettes, who inhale deeply, and who began smoking in adolescence.
Q: Can smoking cause other
A: Yes. There are more cancers of
the bladder and pancreas in smokers than in nonsmokers. Cancer of the mouth, tongue,
larynx, and esophagus are also more common in smokers of all kinds of tobacco.
Q: Can smoking affect the heart?
A: Cigarette smoking increases the
likelihood of arteriosclerosis and doubles the risk of coronary thrombosis. The risk of
developing other blood vessel disorders is also increased.
Q: What other diseases are more
likely to occur in smokers?
A: Dental and gum disorders occur
more commonly in smokers. Smokers are also more likely to develop tuberculosis, probably
because the damaging effect of the irritants in tobacco lowers the resistance of the lungs
to this type of infection.
Although smoking does not cause peptic ulcers, the
continued habit prevents them from healing. Consequently, complications are more common
and mortality is greater from perforated ulcers.
Q: What are the benefits of
A: Within a few days or weeks,
there is an improvement in the sense of taste and smell, a gradual reduction in the amount
of morning coughing, and less shortness of breath during exercise. There is often a
temporary increase in phlegm production.
Although lung damage, such as that caused by chronic
bronchitis and emphysema, cannot be reversed once it has occurred, its progress is
However, the greatest long-term benefit is the steady
decrease in the chances of getting cancer. If a person who stops smoking cigarettes lives
for 10 years, his or her chance of developing lung cancer is no more than for someone who
has never smoked.
Smoking and Your
From the National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Cigarette smoking causes a variety of life-threatening
diseases, including lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. An estimated 400,000 deaths
each year are caused directly by cigarette smoking. Smoking is responsible for changes in
all parts of the body, including the digestive system. This fact can have serious
consequences because it is the digestive system that converts foods into the nutrients the
body needs to live. Current estimates indicate that about one-third of all adults smoke.
And, while adult men seem to be smoking less, women and teenagers of both sexes seem to be
smoking more. How does smoking affect the digestive system of all these people?
Smoking has been shown to have harmful effects on all parts of
the digestive system, contributing to such common disorders as heartburn and peptic
ulcers. It also increases the risk of Crohn's disease and
possibly gallstones. Smoking seems to affect the liver, too, by
changing the way it handles drugs and alcohol. In fact, there
seems to be enough evidence to stop smoking solely on the basis
of digestive distress. These everyday disorders are similar to
mesothelioma symptoms, a type of cancer that affects the membrane lining of
the abdomen and lungs.
Heartburn is common among Americans. More than 60 million
Americans have heartburn at least once a month, and about 15 million have it daily.
Heartburn happens when acidic juices from the stomach splash
into the esophagus. Normally, a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus, the
lower esophageal sphincter (LES), keeps the acid solution in the stomach and out of the
esophagus. Smoking decreases the strength of the esophageal valve, thereby allowing
stomach juice to reflux, or flow backward into the esophagus.
Smoking also seems to promote the movement of bile salts from
the intestine to the stomach, which makes the stomach juice more harmful. Finally, smoking
may directly injure the esophagus, making it less able to resist further damage from
A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the
stomach or duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. The exact cause of ulcers is
not known. A relationship between smoking cigarettes and ulcers, especially duodenal
ulcers, does exist. The 1989 Surgeon General's report stated that ulcers are more likely
to occur, less likely to heal, and more likely to cause death in smokers than in
Why is this so? Doctors are not really sure, but smoking does
seem to be one of several factors that work together to promote the formation of ulcers.
For example, some research suggests that smoking might
increase a person's risk of infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Most peptic ulcers are caused by this bacterium.
Stomach acid is also important in producing ulcers. Normally,
most of this acid is buffered by the food we eat. Most of the unbuffered acid that enters
the duodenum is quickly neutralized by sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring alkali
produced by the pancreas. Some studies show that smoking reduces the bicarbonate produced
by the pancreas, interfering with the neutralization of acid in the duodenum. Other
studies suggest that chronic cigarette smoking may increase the amount of acid secreted by
the stomach. Whatever causes the link between smoking and ulcers, two points have been
repeatedly demonstrated: People who smoke are more likely to develop an ulcer, especially
a duodenal ulcer, and ulcers are less likely to heal quickly among smokers in response to
otherwise effective treatment. This research tracing the relationship between smoking and
ulcers strongly suggests that a person with an ulcer should stop smoking.
The liver is an important organ that has many tasks.
Among other things, the liver is responsible for processing drugs, alcohol, and other
toxins to remove them from the body. There is evidence that smoking alters the ability of
the liver to handle these substances. In some cases, this may influence the dose of
medication necessary to treat an illness. Some research also suggests that smoking can
aggravate the course of liver disease caused by excessive alcohol intake.
Crohn's disease causes inflammation deep in the lining
of the intestine. The disease, which causes pain and diarrhea, usually affects the small
intestine, but it can occur anywhere in the digestive tract. Research shows that current
and former smokers have a higher risk of developing Crohn's disease than nonsmokers do.
Among people with the disease, smoking is associated with a higher rate of relapse, repeat
surgery, and immunosuppressive treatment. In all areas, the risk for women, whether
current or former smokers, is slightly higher than for men. Why smoking increases the risk
of Crohn's disease is unknown, but some theories suggest that smoking might lower the
intestine's defenses, decrease blood flow to the intestines, or cause immune system
changes that result in inflammation.
Several studies suggest that smoking may increase the
risk of developing gallstones and that the risk may be higher for women. However, research
results on this topic are not consistent, and more study is needed.
Can the Damage Be Reversed?
Some of the effects of smoking on the digestive system
appear to be of short duration. For example, the effect of smoking on bicarbonate
production by the pancreas does not appear to last. Within a half-hour after smoking, the
production of bicarbonate returns to normal. The effects of smoking on how the liver
handles drugs also disappear when a person stops smoking. However, people who no longer
smoke still remain at risk for Crohn's disease. Clearly, this question needs more study.