Now I know that all of you smokers out there know darned well that smoking isn’t good for you, so I’m not going to go on and on about the main problems that smoking can cause you, these things are already well documented, but I will say this; you can eat five portions of fruit and veg a day and exercise regularly, but healthy behaviour means little if you continue to smoke.
The message that ‘smoking is bad for you’ is an old one, so not everyone gives it much attention anymore. Here, however, is a list of some of the facts and figures that are not so well known about the health risks of smoking:
There are nearly 4000 chemical compounds in every single cigarette that you smoke, and of these, around 400 are toxic to your body. The tip of a cigarette burns at 700 degrees centigrade, whilst the core burns at 60. This combined heating and burning process turns the tobacco into various toxins (poisons, effectively) which is then sucked toward the butt as you inhale. If you smoke a cigarette right up until the filter, this is where you get a much higher level of toxins into your body.
The most damaging products are:
1) Tar, a carcinogen (substance that causes cancer)
2) The addictive substance is nicotine, which raises cholesterol too
3) carbon monoxide reduces oxygen in the body
The damage caused by smoking is influenced by:
1) How many cigarettes you smoke
2) Whether the cigarette has a filter or not
3) How has the tobacco been prepared
More recent research has shown that smoking reduces life expectancy by seven to eight years and of the 300 people who die every day in the UK as a result of smoking, many are now comparatively young smokers.
It is a staggering fact that if you add together all the deaths of people under the age of 70, who died from traffic accidents, AIDS, breast cancer and drug addiction, there are still more who die from smoking related illnesses.
I know you’re all going to shout, ah c’mon at this one, but the ugly truth is this…if you started smoking at an early age, smoke more than 20 a day and inhale deeply, the greater your chances of getting lung cancer. It then takes roughly 15 years for your risk of getting lung cancer to drop to that of a non smoker.
Other cancers that are not so publicised are cancers of the mouth. If you smoke the risk is four times that of a non smoker to get cancer on or under the tongue, or on the lips. Another illness that smokers do not tend to be as aware of as lung cancer is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), for which smoking is responsible for 80 percent of cases.
It’s estimated that 94 per cent of 20-a-day smokers have some emphysema when the lungs are examined after death, while more than 90 per cent of non-smokers have little or none. COPD typically starts between the ages of 35 and 45 when lung function starts to decline anyway.
When anyone ages, it is a natural process for their lung function to slowly reduce. However, for a smoker this can be as much as three times faster. Over years, you can expect to become more and more breathless, until needing constant oxygen, hospital care and then death due to slow suffocation…NOT GOOD.
Nicotine itself is known to cause narrowing of the arteries all over the body, but there is one particular problem that affects you guys out there. Men in their 30s and 40s, who smoke, are much more likely to have erectile dysfunction…now you’re listening aren’t you?! Erection cannot happen if the arteries that lead to the penis are not functioning properly, as the blood flow would be reduced, so stopping your performance before it even gets started.
This narrowing effect increases over time, so if you haven’t got problems now, things could change later (and I’m not apologising for scaring you on that one)…in actual fact, erection problems in smokers may be an early warning signal that cigarettes are already damaging other areas of the body – such as the blood vessels that supply the heart.
The ‘side-stream’ smoke that comes off a cigarette between puffs carries a higher risk than directly inhaled smoke, so you’re not doing your non-smoking partners, kids, friends, etc., any good either…feeling guilty yet…?
When a child is brought up in a home where one or both parents smoke, the instances of asthma and bronchitis are twice that of non smoking households. The prevalance of allergies is also much higher. There is a much greater risk of cot death and chest infections amongst the very young.
For adults, passive smoking seems to increase the risk of lung cancer, but the evidence for an increased risk of heart disease is not yet conclusive, but what is certain is that non-smokers and ex-smokers can look forward to a healthier old age than smokers.
So after all this, what is my message? Well I hope to have given you one or two things that you had never thought of before to think about. There are folks out there who love you, and there are 100’s of stop smoking programmes to help you too. Go on, give it a go…and stop smoking now!