If we take a fatalistic view of life, nothing is important. However, deep down inside, we feel that even though our life is finite, we can accomplish much. It is this desire to live a long, healthy life with our friends and loved ones that can provide a motivation to quit smoking.
Many smokers feel that they are the masters of their own destiny and that they could quit smoking anytime they want, but then they convince themselves that they enjoy smoking and that they will not quit today. As time passes, the habit becomes ingrained until it becomes a lifestyle and an addiction that causes physical discomfort if stopped. The only way to stop smoking is to overcome the psychological dependence on tobacco and treat the physical addiction to nicotine.
Harmful effects of Tobacco
You have probably heard that cigarette smoking is a leading cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smokers die an average of 10 years sooner than nonsmokers. Tobacco is responsible for over half of the deaths from cancer. The Surgeon General issued a report in 1964 saying that smoking was harmful.
In 1983, cigarette smoking was ranked as the largest preventable cause of coronary heart disease (CHD). Smoking one to five cigarettes a day increases heart attack risk by 40% compared with nonsmokers, and smoking one pack per day quadruples the risk. In 1984, cigarette smoking was found to be the major cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, for both men and women. COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. COPD can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing that produces large amounts of mucus. COPD may make it difficult to do basic activities like walking or climbing stairs. A 2004 report stated that cigarette smoking causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body, and that it is conclusively linked to leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia and cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach. Unborn children and non-smokers who breathe smoke exhaled by smokers and burning tobacco (second-hand smoke) can also become sick, and thousands of smoking-related fires occur yearly. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show that smoking kills over 440,000 people per year in the United States. For comparison, approximately 400,000 Americans died in World War II, 58,000 American soldiers died during the Vietnam war, and 2,800 people died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after being hit by two hijacked airplanes on September 11, 2001. We mourn this great loss of life. However, every year, the number of deaths caused by smoking is over 157 times greater than the World Trade Center, 7.5 greater than Vietnam, and exceeds those of World War II, but strangely, this does not cause any great outrage because we voluntarily inflict this on ourselves.
Why is smoking harmful?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 60 cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), including polycyclic hydrocarbons, N-nitrosamines, aldehydes, and inorganic compounds. Twenty of the carcinogens cause cancer in the lungs and throat. The most carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco are the nitrosamines. These are found in tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke), and chewing tobacco. The chemicals cause irritation and inflammation that gradually damage the cells of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs causing them to become cancerous.
X-Ray of lung cancer.
The white mass in the red circle is a lung tumor
SMOKELESS TOBACCO or CHEWING TOBACCO:
An average size dip or chew of tobacco held in the mouth for 30 minutes provides as much nicotine as about 3 cigarettes. This makes smokeless tobacco highly addictive. Even though there is no smoke, tobacco held between the cheeks and gums releases chemicals that cause changes in the oral mucous tissues in as little as seven days. As the tissues of the mouth degenerate under the influence of the harmful chemicals, precancerous white or red patches (leukoplakias or erythroplakias) may develop.
Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth, parts of the throat, and pharynx or voice box. Oral cancer is very difficult to treat because both the cancer and the treatments make it impossible to eat a proper diet. Only half of those with the disease survive more than five years. About 30,000 new cases of oral cancer (mouth, oral cavity, and pharynx) are diagnosed every year, and more than 8,000 people die from mouth cancer every year.
Smoking causes wrinkles and accelerates aging
The chemicals in the smoke of tobacco narrow the blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin. The reduced blood flow depletes oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A, and results in damage to the collagen and elastin fibers that give strength and elasticity to the skin. As a result, the skin starts to sag and wrinkle prematurely, accelerating the normal aging process. Smoking is associated with increased wrinkling and skin damage in other parts of the body, including the inner arms. Repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions made when smoking, such as pursing the lips and squinting the eyes to keep out smoke, may also contribute to wrinkles. The following photographs of identical twins, aged 52, shows the wrinkling caused by smoking. The twin on the right smoked approximately three cigarettes per day (52.5 packs per year), and her skin has a lot more wrinkles and more severe aging.