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Smoker vs. Non-Smoker: Evaluating The Effects of Cigarette Smoking

Published on: August 9, 2017

Written by: Janet Russell.

Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. The use of tobacco products such as cigars, pipes, hookahs, bidis, and kreteks have proven to develop various health effects.

Tobacco use has been linked to the following medical conditions:

  • aortic aneurysms
  • bronchitis
  • cancer of the lip or mouth
  • cancer of the stomach
  • cancer of the urinary bladder
  • cervical cancer
  • emphysema
  • esophagus (food pipe)
  • heart disease
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

Despite the continuous efforts in providing information regarding the effects of cigarette smoking, people continue to smoke and succumb to various diseases. It has come to a point where the focus on public health information was directed towards the welfare of children. After all, several reports revealed how the age of tobacco users have become younger each year.

The adverse health effects of cigarette smoking have long been exposed, and yet a lot of people continue to smoke. Although there may be a decline in tobacco smoking for the past years, this has inadvertently led to a surge in the use of alternative tobacco products.

Some traditional cigarette users have switched to e-cigarettes, which smokers consider as a “healthier” alternative. This is contrary to what experts claim, in which e-cigarettes are known to be capable of producing more carcinogenic chemicals than traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular as a smoking cessation aid, without the users realizing that they can still put themselves at a higher risk of developing other diseases.

Addiction to cigarette smoking may be brought about by different factors. Some adult smokers may have developed the habit as their way to relax their mind after a stressful day. Meanwhile, the younger generation of smokers are easily influenced due to their nature of being easily persuaded by their peers. In addition, during the adolescent stage, they may want to try out new things, most especially those that would make them feel like adults.

Statistics on Cigarette Smoking

cigarette smoking tobacco use adults

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of death and illness in the US. Cigarette smoking dates back to the 1500s when it was regarded as something of such value.

Over the years, tobacco products have been widely distributed in the world, which eventually encouraged more and more people to smoke. The rampant use of cigarettes has led to various illnesses that affect both men and women.

Here are some alarming figures and statistics related to cigarette smoking:

  • One in five deaths are caused by cigarette smoking in the U.S.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk of death in both men and women.
  • More women die from lung cancer each year than breast cancer.
  • Roughly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking.
  • Smoking can diminish overall health, which cause increase in absenteeism from work as well as higher health care costs.
  • About 15 in 100 U.S. adults are currently engaged in cigarette smoking.
  • Men are more likely to smoke than women.
  • The rate of current cigarette smoking is higher among non-Hispanic Americans Indians/Alaska Natives than any other ethnicity.
  • Current cigarette smoking rate is highest among those individuals living below the poverty line.
  • About 80 percent of alcoholics smoke regularly.
  • Individuals who smoke at a young age are twice likely to become alcoholic.

Impact of Cigarette Smoking

cigarette smoking environment

Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can be harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. There are at least 250 known chemicals that are proven to be hazardous to health, 69 of which can cause cancer. Some of these harmful chemicals are:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Aromatic amines
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Benzo[α]pyrene
  • Beryllium
  • 1,3–Butadiene
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Cumene
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Nickel
  • Polonium-210
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Tobacco-specific nitrosamines
  • Vinyl chloride

Smoking can harm almost every body organ and system and can significantly diminish a person’s overall health condition. As mentioned above, it can cause cancers of the different body organs and can also cause acute myeloid leukemia.

Various medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease can possibly develop due to cigarette smoking. It can put the individual at a high risk of developing tuberculosis, pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Additionally, it can also cause inflammation and can possibly impair the immune system.

It may be difficult for smokers to run without having to feel any difficulty in breathing. This is because the lungs may be having a difficult time to pump out air due to the possibility of blockages in the bronchial tubules. As a result, smokers have less speed and agility compared to non-smokers.

The risk of developing lung cancer has tremendously increased since the 1960s despite the dip in the number of cigarettes consumed. Studies have shown that there have also been changes in the type of lung cancer that smokers develop, which may be caused by the difference in the formulation of the cigarettes over the years.

Smoking in women may cause them to have difficulty in conceiving. Additionally, pregnant smokers are at a higher risk of having a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. They may also produce offspring with low birth weight or physical deformities. Meanwhile, children born to mothers who smoke have an increased risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The reproductive system of male smokers may also suffer from the bad effects of smoking – decrease in sperm count, infertility, and erectile dysfunction.

Nicotine-dependent individuals may experience major depressive disorders. Ironically, those who try to quit smoking are also likely to develop a new major depressive disorder.

Cigarette smoking can have a great impact on the family. For starters, children look up to their parents. And with that, everything that they see that their parents are doing, they are likely to imitate. Ultimately, no family would want any of its members to suffer any kind of sickness. After all, continuous smoking increases the risk of the smoker to develop an illness.

The environment can also be affected by smoking. Most of the office building nowadays implement a “No Smoking” policy in their workplace. This does not only prevent non-smokers from inhaling the smoke, but it increases the safety of any workplace from possible fire due to cigarettes that have not completely been put off.

no smoking sign in office building

Apart from that, cigarette butts have become a major problem since some smokers would just throw their cigarette butts anywhere, thereby causing possible clogging in sewers.

Toxic chemicals released into the air by manufacturing companies contribute to the air pollution in the environment. Such chemicals are:

  • Ammonia
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Methyl ethyl ketone
  • Nicotine and nicotine salts
  • Sulphuric acid
  • Toluene

Polonium 210 is a radioactive element in which a person who consumes 2- cigarettes each day receives a dose of radiation equivalent to 200 chest x-rays.

The Risks of Non-Smokers with Tobacco Smoke

cigarette smoke

It is unfortunate that despite some individuals who choose not to smoke, they remain to be victims of various diseases caused by cigarette smoking.

Smokers unknowingly put an added risk to the health of his/her family by passing on secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is defined as the side stream smoke (the smoke coming from a burning tobacco) and the mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by a smoker) that a non-smoker gets from smokers.

It has long been determined that secondhand smoke is a human carcinogen and that it can cause lung cancer in non-smokers. As a result of the exposure to secondhand smoke, there are about 7,300 lung cancer deaths that occur each year among non-smoking adults in the U.S.

Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by at least 25-30% among nonsmokers. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 34,000 deaths have been recorded due to heart diseases caused by secondhand smoke. Such exposure also increases the risk of stroke by at least 20%.

Moreover, children exposed to secondhand smoke are likely to develop colds, ear infection, pneumonia, and bronchitis. It can also contribute to the severity of asthma symptoms. It also can also affect the normal growth of children’s lungs, causing them to experience coughing, wheezing and feeling of breathlessness.

Very recently, a new problem called thirdhand smoke is being investigated. This refers to carcinogens that are lodged in clothing, drapes, carpets and other materials that can be absorbed through human skin, especially that of infants and children. The carcinogens can be either ingested or inhaled.

Developing an Addiction

Some people who smoke may find themselves lighting their cigarettes on certain occasions. But more often than not, individuals who smoke can consume an average of one pack a day.

Cigarette smoking may lead to addiction. Consequently, these chemicals trigger the decrease of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that is responsible for the breakdown of dopamine. The decrease in monoamine oxidase results in higher dopamine levels, thereby forcing an individual to smoke more often to be able to continuously sustain the desired effect.

Apart from nicotine, it was discovered that acetaldehyde contributes to the reinforcing properties of nicotine that eventually leads to the development of an addiction. Extreme exposure to toxic doses of nicotine can cause convulsions, tremors, vomiting, and death.

Pure nicotine is commonly found in insecticides wherein a drop of pure nicotine can kill a person in a matter of minutes. Nicotine poisoning due to accidental ingestion can cause respiratory failure, paralysis and ultimately leads to death.

The nicotine content in tobacco products varies. A cigarette that contains about 0.89 grams of tobacco may have a nicotine content between 13.79 and 22.68 milligrams per gram of dry tobacco. In cigars, it may have a nicotine content of 6.3 to 15.6 mg per gram of tobacco.

The amount of nicotine that a smoker ingests may also vary. It depends on the frequency and how much of each stick is consumed. Frequent and deeper puffs of tobacco smoke may increase the amount of nicotine that is absorbed in the body.

Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream. It goes through the lining of the mouth, then travels to the brain.

Final Word

Increase in awareness of its health effects is important for several reasons:

  • To publicize the dangers of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke
  • To clarify the association between how tobacco is being advertised and how the youth looks up to others
  • To develop strategies and medications to help smokers quit.

By knowing the effects of cigarette smoking on a smoker’s body, people who are not yet engaged in tobacco use will have the urge to say no to this deadly and addictive vice.