Smoking: The Facts
What's the story with smoking and how does it affect your health?
The experts define smoking as the inhalation of smoke from burning tobacco. We've all seen people do it, so we have a fairly good idea about how it works.
What you might not know though, is that tobacco contains an addictive drug called nicotine and smoking a cigarette is the quickest and most powerful way to get it into the body.
What's actually in my cigarette?
There are thousands of different chemicals in cigarettes, many of which are cancer causing. This includes:
- Scientists say that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. They've even argued that it may be more addictive than heroin or cocaine.
- Nicotine is poisonous and has been used in the past as an insecticide.
- It is inhaled into the lungs, passes into the bloodstream and reaches the brain in about 10 -20 seconds.
- Nicotine addiction can occur very quickly and it is because of this that smokers continue to smoke, many for the rest of their lives.
Tar is a sticky substance that collects in the lungs, causing respiratory diseases and cancers.
- Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas which limits the amount of oxygen that the red blood cells in our bodies carry.
There are more than 4,000 other chemicals, many of which are cancer causing.
These include arsenic (poison), ammonia (toilet cleaner), acetone (nail polish remover), butane (lighter fuel), methanol (rocket fuel), DDT (insecticide), polonium 210 (radioactive fallout) and cadium (car battery fuel).
The toxic and chemical ingredients of cigarettes.
Why is smoking so bad for me?
In Ireland around 5,000 people die each year from smoking related illnesses. Cigarette smoke has an affect on nearly every organ in the body, causes many diseases and has a negative impact on your health in general.
When you smoke your body takes in a lot more than just nicotine: Cigarette smoke is packed with additional toxic chemicals including tar and carbon monoxide.
If it's so bad for me why do so many people smoke?
People may smoke for any number of reasons:
- Some are curious about it and want to give it a try
- Peer Pressure: Others may take up smoking because their friends are doing it
- Stress: Some see smoking as a way to relieve their feelings of stress or anxiety in social situations
- People who come from a family of smokers might choose to smoke cigarettes out of habit
- You also can't rule out the idea of someone lighting up because they're used to a culture of social smoking, especially in nightclub smoking areas.
Check out this award-winning ad from Thailand, which reveals that smokers had something rather interesting to say when two kids asked them for a light.
What will happen to my health if I smoke?
In the short term:
- Smoking gives you bad breath
- Causes wrinkles earlier in life
- Makes your hair and clothes smell
- Can affect your sports performance - you won't be able to run as fast or as far
- Stains your teeth and makes your skin dry
- Creases your lips from pursing them around the cigarette
- Makes your skin tougher: Goodbye silky smoothness
- Can have a negative impact on women who are on the pill
In the long term:
- May cause a brain stroke
- Wrinkled skin
- Mouth cancer
- Throat cancer
- Lung cancer
- Short wind sickness
- Stomach cancer and stomach ulcer
- Kidney and bladder cander
- Cervix, ovary and uterus cancers
- Blocked arteries
- Weak bones
- Diabetes complications
Remember, social smokers (people who only smoke in social situations) and passive smokers (people who don't smoke but end up inhaling someone else's second-hand smoke) are also at risk. There is NO safe number of cigarettes to smoke and NO safe level of cigarette smoke to take in.
What can I do?
- Well if you don’t smoke that’s great! Our best advice to you is don’t start. That way, you’ll never have the problem of trying to quit.
- Even if you don't smoke it's important to avoid being around people when they are smoking as second hand smoke is bad for your health. Check out our article on second hand smoking for more info.
- If you do smoke, consider quitting,it’s a brilliant thing to do, and it will hugely benefit your health and well-being. Remember, there is plenty of help and support available. Check out our article on quitting smoking for tips on how to quit.
Benefits of quitting
- The health benefits start right away when you quit smoking.
- Straight away, you will have fresher breath, hair and clothes-smoking is smelly.
- Straight away, you will have more money in your pocket.
- Within 20 minutes blood pressure and pulse rate begin to return to normal and circulation will improve.
- Within 1 day the carbon monoxide level in your blood will drop and the oxygen level will go up.
- Within 2 days you will have a better sense of taste and smell.
- Within 3 days you will feel fitter and less breathless.
- Within one year the risk of sudden death from a heart attack is almost cut in half. Your risk of cancer is also reduced.
Get help and support to QUIT smoking
- Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking.
- Call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
- Head to the Quit.ie Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own.
- Check out SpunOut's articles about giving up cigarettes.