Despite having zero benefits to oneself and others, over 1.1 billion people in the world continue to use tobacco, with cigarettes being the main product choice. Its accessibility and affordability have made it easy for individuals to purchase, to the point where even minors can buy them in stores without question. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco remains to be the leading preventable cause of death. Because of this, governments are now implementing stricter regulations on tobacco pricing and smoking in public places as a way to discourage their citizens from continuing the habit.
In the Philippines, tobacco control interventions such as the Tobacco Tax Reform Law of 2012 led to a 20% drop in the number of smokers, making it the biggest decrease in Philippine history. Reports have also shown that while many Filipinos want to quit, the addictive quality caused by the chemicals makes the recovery process difficult without proper rehabilitation programs and an emotional support group.
To understand why cigarettes are harmful and addicting, we must know what they are made of and how these ingredients affect the body. In just one stick, there is a total of 7000 chemicals, all of which are harmful to our organs. Over 60 of those are known to be carcinogenic or cancer-causing. According to the Irish Cancer Society, these are some of the notable ingredients that can be found in each cigarette stick:
Derived from the tobacco plant, nicotine is a toxic chemical that can make consumers experience euphoria and relaxation when taken continuously, therefore making it addictive. It is so strong that those who have begun their rehabilitation may experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as nausea, sweating, insomnia, and anxiety.
This substance is created when the user takes a drag while smoking, burning the tobacco. It is a sticky brown material that contains most of the cancer-causing chemicals, and it accumulates in our lungs. The cilia, or tiny hair-like projections that line the trachea, become paralyzed and unable to trap pollutants. This is what turns a smoker’s lungs from healthy pink to dark grey.
Known to be present in fossil fuels, engines, propane, and gasoline, this chemical can cause illness and even death because it is considered poisonous. The fact that it is present in combustion fumes indicates that this should not be anywhere near our bodies.
Found in insecticides and weed killers, this metallic element can damage our nerves, tissues, and even skin. Arsenic becomes present in the air when contaminated materials are burned, like when someone starts smoking. Long-term exposure to this element can cause lung and skin cancer.
Naturally found in crude oil, this colorless liquid is found in household cleaning products such as rust inhibitors, varnishes, adhesives, and solvent-based sanitizing products. Ingesting this chemical can cause neurological disorders such as dementia.
Many of the substances found in cigarettes are also present in industrial materials and cleaning agents such as pesticides, road pavements, and even gasoline. Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Acetone (found in nail polish remover), and Methanol are also present in cigarettes, and they all damage our tissues and organs.
Risks of Cigarette Smoking
The frequency of one’s usage does not change the severity of health risks for each person. Every time smoke comes into contact with living cells, it immediately causes harm. The first organs to be affected by this are the lungs, heart, and stomach. Over time, individuals can get cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and coronary heart disease.
As mentioned earlier, there is no positive effect on smoking. In the United States, this bad habit kills more Americans than drugs, guns, HIV, car accidents, and alcohol combined. Not only does it poison the smoker, but it also affects others as well through secondhand smoking. In fact, secondhand smoking (SHS) is just as bad, if not worse, as being the principal user. This is because SHS contains more than 7000 chemicals due to combustion.
Effects of Secondhand Smoking
SHS happens when a non-smoker is exposed to the smoke produced by a smoker. There are two types of smoke that these individuals unintentionally consume:
Mainstream smoke – exhaled by the smoker
Sidestream smoke – present at the lit end of the cigarette
The sidestream smoke contains more concentrated carcinogenic chemicals, making it more toxic than mainstream smoke. Having smaller particles means that it passes through our lungs and gets in our cells easier as well. This is why those who frequently spend time with smokers tend to get the same diseases. This is because they absorb the same harmful chemicals. There are even times when secondhand smokers get more ill than smokers because of the combined chemicals from the two sources of smoke. Children whose parents smoke tend to get sick more often and have more lung infections than kids whose parents are non-smokers.
The road to recovery can be different for each person depending on how addicted he/she is. With a strong support system and guidance from health professionals, one can have a better journey towards healthier living. There are various ways on how to begin rehabilitating, such as nicotine replacement therapy, acupuncture, and even hypnosis. These can all be discussed and set with a doctor. It is important to also stay away from triggers as much as possible. Find better alternatives to consume, like fruits and candies.
Learn more about how you or your loved ones can successfully quit smoking. You can schedule an appointment with any of our Pulmonologists. For diagnostic procedures, you may call our Respiratory Care Department at 523-8131 loc. 2202