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Health Effects Caused by Tobacco You Didn't Know About

Posted by : Dr. Lancelot Mark Pinto, 15 May 2019 02:33 PM
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Did you know that approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco? No other consumer product is as dangerous as tobacco, killing half of its lifetime users. With World No Tobacco Day around the corner, it is time we shed some light on this gradual killer.

Cigarettes are packed with many addictive and harmful substances like nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine. Tobacco includes chemicals with marked irritant properties and suspected carcinogens. It contains chemicals found in floor cleaner, ant poison, paint stripper, lighter fuel, car batteries, car exhaust fumes, insecticides, gas chambers, mothballs, industrial solvent plastics and rocket fuel.

It is a major risk factor for several diseases that affects all age groups. Sir Richard Doll is a British physician, known for his pioneering research on smoking and health problems. According to him, "An hour a day in a room with a smoker is nearly hundred times more likely to cause lung cancer in a non- smoker than 20 years spent in a building containing asbestos." This is quite telling of the dangers of smoking.

Tobacco use is proven to harm nearly every organ of the human body. Chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, cancers of the respiratory tract, lung, upper gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, kidney, urinary bladder, oral cavity, nasal cavity, cervix, diabetes and ischemic heart diseases are associated with tobacco use.

Smokeless tobacco (snuff, chew tobacco) is a major cause of cancer of the oral cavity. The risk of cancer of the tongue, lip and mouth also increases with tobacco consumption. Our body is made up of cells that contain genetic material that is the DNA, which helps with cell growth and function. Every cigarette puff causes damage to the DNA. In addition to this, smoking is a risk factor for Coronary Heart Diseases (CHD).

Need another reason why smoking is bad for you? Chronic smoking is also known to impact neurocognitive function, with a reduction in executive function (planning tasks, focussing and ignoring unnecessary distractions), working memory (the temporary storage and manipulation of information) and prospective memory (memory for daily activities).

Tobacco consumption also has a negative effect on pregnancy. Women suffer additional health risks with tobacco-intake. It is dangerous to both the mother and the foetus. The usage of tobacco causes bleeding during pregnancy, miscarriage, spontaneous abortion, premature delivery of baby, stillbirth, low birth weight babies, low bone density, ectopic pregnancy, abnormalities of the placenta and effects on new-borns and childhood.

Tobacco use during pregnancy is known to be a risk factor for congenital malformations in the baby such as clubfoot, orofacial clefts and atrial septal defects. It is also known to increase the risk of allergies, higher blood pressure in childhood, poorer lung function, increased likelihood of obesity and stunted growth.

Smoking lowers a female's level of oestrogen, leading to thinning hair, dry skin and memory problems. Smoking can also lead to early menopause, which increases the risk of developing diseases such as heart disease.

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, kidney damage, eye diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases and erectile dysfunction are known to worsen by tobacco usage. It also causes aged skin, bad odour, stained teeth, mouth ulcers and difficulty in swallowing.

Studies have shown that the use of e-cigarettes also known as vaping among the youth is strongly associated with later usage of regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. Tobacco usage is linked to harmful behaviour in teenagers. According to research, teen tobacco users are more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs than non-users. Cigarette smokers are also more likely to carry weapons, get aggressive and indulge in fights, become suicidal, engage in high-risk sexual behaviours and suffer from mental health problems such as depression. Children and teens that smoke regularly tend to have more health problems than those who do not. They often suffer from shortness of breath, even when not exercising. They suffer from coughing spells, wheezing, gasping. They also complain of frequent headaches, increased phlegm (mucus), reduced physical fitness, poor lung growth and function and worse cold and flu symptoms.

The negative effects on health of first-hand and second-hand smoke exposure have been widely studied. There is growing evidence about the consequences of third-hand smoke exposure as well.

To conclude, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease for both men and women. Every individual should be able to breathe air free of tobacco.

P. D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre have a tobacco cessation clinic to treat smoking successfully. The clinic provides medications to prevent cravings, strategies to deal with situations in which the urge to smoke is high and nicotine replacement therapy. You can consult the experts for appropriate therapy for this major life-altering decision to quit smoking.
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Dr. Lancelot Mark Pinto, MBBS, DNB (Respiratory Medicine), MSc (Epidemiology - McGill University, Canada), Fellow (Sleep medicine and COPD Rehabilitation - McGill University, Canada), FCCP (USA), ECFMG certified (USA)