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The Harmful Effects of Cigarette Smoking

Introduction

Millions of people around the globe smoke tobacco on a daily basis. The health and social costs of cigarette smoking are enormous. Smoking is associated with the risks of various cardiovascular and lung disease complications. Those, who smoke, are claimed to face increased risks of diabetes and weight problems. Moreover, smoking is often related to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, which further exacerbate the profound physiological impacts of tobacco on the human organism. No less dangerous is secondhand smoke; those who are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke can develop various cardiovascular diseases. The negative effects of cigarette smoking on health and society were extensively explored, but not everyone is ready to quit this habit. Not everyone has enough self-control and power to tackle the smoking addiction. Smoking cigarettes is extremely harmful to individual and public health: cigarette smoke is responsible for systemic changes in the human organism, and only through self-motivation and self-care smokers can get rid of this harmful habit.

Cigarette Smoking: Gruesome Statistics

The current picture of cigarette smoking in the United States and the rest of the world is quite gruesome. Despite the development of numerous public campaigns, cigarette smoking remains the largest preventable cause of deaths and diseases in the developed world (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults"). According to CDC, at least 443,000 adults in the U.S. die from diseases and health complications related to smoking every year ("Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults"). In 2011, 19% of American adults smoked cigarettes, although the percentage of those who smoke more than 30 cigarettes per days has decreased from 12.6 to 9.1% (CDC, "Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults"). The prevalence of cigarette smoking in the developed world has not changed over the past several years. Moreover, the number of those who smoke up to 9 cigarettes every day has increased dramatically from 16.4 to 22.0% (CDC, "Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults"). However, the United States is not alone in its cigarette smoking problem: every year, 4-5 million of people in the world die from smoking-related diseases (Peto & Lopez 283). The worldwide consumption of cigarettes continues to grow. Every third smoker becomes an addict, and only few smokers actually give up (Peto & Lopez 283).

The cost effects of cigarette smoking are difficult to underestimate. CDC suggests that, in the U.S., tobacco smoking is responsible for $96 billion in medical expenses and almost the same amount in lost productivity ("Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults"). Current or ever smoking leads to a $230 increase in patient and ambulatory care costs (Sturm 248). The costs of services and medication provided to a smoking patient are 21 percent higher than those delivered to a non-smoking individual (Sturm 248). In addition, tobacco smoking is responsible for the growing number of deaths and thus contributes to other global population trends, including aging.

"The world population in middle and old age will increase. The proportion of deaths       in middle and old age that is caused by tobacco will increase substantially over the   next few decades, due to the delayed effects of the large increase in cigarette smoking among young adults over the past few decades." (Peto & Lopez 282)   

Given the power of the tobacco addiction and the relative ineffectiveness of medication and other cognitive approaches to smoking, it is difficult to imagine that these trends will undergo any significant shift in the nearest time. Unfortunately, most people do not realize how harmful tobacco smoking is for their health.

Cigarette Smoking and Harmful Health Effects

Medical specialists are unanimous: cigarette smoking is responsible for considerable systemic changes in human organism. According to Yanbaeva et al., life-long smokers of tobacco cigarettes have higher prevalence of numerous common diseases, including atherosclerosis (1557). Cigarette smoking leads to numerous changes in all organ systems, including lungs (Yanbaeva et al. 1557). More often than not, tobacco smokers experience the so-called oxidative stress, because cigarette smoke is rich in oxidant molecules (Yanbaeva et al. 1557). These molecules reduce the levels of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients in blood; and even the best antioxidants cannot protect life-long smokers from these harmful effects of tobacco (Yanbaeva et al. 1559). In addition, lifelong cigarette smokers experience chronic inflammation and coagulation problems, which lead to the development of the most common smoking-related diseases.

It is no secret that many women and men keep smoking, because they believe that smoking cigarettes help them maintain weight. The results of numerous studies show that nonsmokers weight more than smokers (Wack & Rodin 366). Unfortunately, few smokers ever think about the damaging impacts of smoking on their caloric regulation and intake. Smoking is a complex concept, which influences and involves numerous sensory, cognitive, and physiological components (Wack & Robin 368). Even if smoking reduces the sense of hunger and leads to greater energy expenditures, it negatively impacts the human gastrointestinal tract. Under the impact of smoking, the human organism consumes fewer calories, but smoking also increases the levels of fatty acids and cholesterol in the bloodstream (Wack & Robin 368). In other words, smokers who want to be slim and slender should also think about the far-reaching consequences of cigarette smoking for their health, because it can readily lead to the development of numerous gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications.

It should be noted that the effects of tobacco smoking on the gastrointestinal tract are mostly indirect (Wack & Robin 371). 95% of nicotine in cigarette smoke enters the bloodstream through lungs, and only 5% go to stomach, mainly with the saliva containing nicotine (Wack & Robin 371). It is not difficult to imagine how many lung problems are facing lifelong cigarette smokers, main among them being COPD and impaired lung function (Gold et al. 931). Adolescents are particularly susceptible to these kinds of health risks. Children and adolescents who smoke have higher rates of asthma wheezing (Gold et al. 932). The greater the number of cigarettes smoked by adolescents on a daily basis, the higher the rates of wheezing (Gold et al. 932). Many smoking adolescents cannot breathe normally or experience difficulties with breathing, while participating in sports and other leisure activities. These results should serve as a precaution to everyone, who wants to try cigarette smoking at an early age.

The harmful effects of cigarette smoking are not limited to asthma and weight regulation, and persistent smokers develop a whole range of cardiovascular diseases. Actually, smoking is claimed to be the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, because it lowers the levels of "good" cholesterol, leads to narrowing and thickening of blood vessels, damages cells, and raises the levels of triglycerides in blood (CDC, "Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke"). Among the most common cardiovascular effects of cigarette smoking are atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). Heart attacks, peripheral arterial disease, high blood pressure, and arrhythmias are all direct products of tobacco smoking (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). Even light smoking is dangerous to the human cardiovascular system and should be avoided by all means, when these problems are detected.

Cigarette smoking increases the risks of Type 2 Diabetes. Willi et al. write that active smoking leads to glucose intolerance which, in turn, creates a very favorable ground for the development of diabetes (2654). Certainly, present-day research does not provide enough information that, in all cases of diabetes in smoking patients, it is smoking that is responsible for the development of the diagnosis. However, the association between diabetes and cigarette smoking cannot be ignored. Those who actively smoke for a long time are more likely to develop diabetes than those, who smoke occasionally and use lighter cigarettes (Willi et al. 2657). Simply stated, the dose of nicotine in the human organism plays a great role in how and how well individuals overcome the risks of type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, even diabetes is not the worst nightmare of lifelong smokers. Thousands of smokers die annually from cancer. 9 out of 10 men who die of lung cancer are smokers, and their deaths are the direct products of their harmful habit (National Cancer Institute). Among women, 8 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are due to smoking (National Cancer Institute). Cigarette smoking leads to the development of all possible forms of cancer. Statistically, every third death from cancer (regardless of its form) in the developed world is due to smoking (Hecht 603). The risks of cancer increase with the number of cigarettes smoked, as well as smoking duration (Hecht 604). Even years after cessation, ex-smokers are very susceptible to the risks of cancer, because the influence of tobacco and smoking carcinogens continues to persist. Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop bladder and renal pelvis carcinomas, cancer of oral cavity, as well as renal cell carcinoma (Hecht 604). Sinonasal and nasopharyngeal cancer are also associated with smoking (Hecht 605). Those, who smoke cigarettes, can develop Hepatitis B and C, as well as liver cancer. Pancreas and stomach suffer greatly from cigarette smoking (Hecht 605). Apparently, no organ or system can be secured from the risks of cigarette smoking. All organs and systems face the risks of major health impairments, due to prolonged active cigarette smoking. Of particular importance is the need to avoid tobacco smoking during pregnancy, because it can have devastating impacts on the fetus and the newborn baby.

The harmful effects of tobacco use during pregnancy are well-documented. Nevertheless, the growing number of women keeps smoking, while pregnant. In 1999, 12.3% of women in the United States were smoking during pregnancy (Law et al. 1318). At least 17% of women aged 15-44 use tobacco during pregnancy, and the number of smoking pregnant women remains quite high (Law et al. 1318). One of the major negative consequences of maternal smoking during pregnancy is low birth weight in infants (Law et al. 1318). The health and wellbeing of the fetus suffers greatly due to cigarette smoking. The smoke impairs placental function and deprives the unborn baby of the most essential nutrients and oxygen (Law et al. 1318). Moreover, nicotine negatively affects the fetus's nervous system and brain. Children, who are born from smoking mothers, often experience difficulties with physical, mental, and emotional growth. This is why it is strongly advised that pregnant women do not smoke during pregnancy.

Those, who believe that cigarette smoking impacts only physical health, are deeply mistaken, because smokers also experience numerous problems with their mental health. Since the beginning of the 1980s, researchers have been trying to understand how tobacco smoking is related to stress and negative emotions (Gilbert et al. 311). Today, the fact that smoking cigarettes increases the risks of panic and anxiety disorders is well-documented (McCabe et al. 7). This fact does not support a common belief that cigarettes help individuals cope with stress. It is not uncommon to see someone smoke a dozen of cigarettes, while waiting for the results of a surgery, after a minor car crash, or any other incident that is associated with high levels of stress. In reality, the "relaxing" impacts of cigarettes are minor, and tobacco smoking is very harmful to mental health. In the long run, smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop anxiety, depression, and distress (McCabe 7).

It is equally wrong to believe that only active smoking is harmful. Passive smoking and secondhand smoke are equally dangerous to human health. This is why the number of smoke-free environments in the developed world continues to increase. Many countries have already recognized the danger of passive smoking and its relation to cardiovascular and lung diseases. In the United States alone, 35,000 deaths are caused annually by passive smoking (Barnoya & Glantz 2684). Cardiovascular complications are the most frequent results of passive smoking. Passive smoking negatively influences the arterial walls in nonsmokers, thus making them much more vulnerable to the risks of heart disease (Otsuka et al. 436). Unfortunately, even with the growing awareness that tobacco smoking is harmful to physical, emotional, and societal health, millions of people around the globe keep smoking cigarettes on a daily basis. Researchers predict that these trends will continue in the nearest future.

Peto and Lopez write that, at present, the number of smokers is approximately one billion (283). By 2030, another billion of adults will become tobacco addicted (Peto & Lopez 283). By that time, the rates of morality caused by tobacco smoking will also increase from the current 4-5 million to at least 10 million every year (Peto & Lopez 283). It is not difficult to see that, in the first quarter of the new century, at least 150 million people will die from the diseases caused by cigarette smoking, with another 300 million to die in the second quarter of the century (Peto & Lopez 283). In 2050-2099, at least 15% of mortality among adults is likely to be caused by tobacco smoking (Peto & Lopez 283). The human losses caused by tobacco smoking are enormous, let alone its financial implications. These gruesome predictions raise one essential question: is it possible to quit smoking, and what is the most effective and easiest way to quit?

Cigarette Smoking and Quitting

The modern medicine provides rich knowledge on how to deal with harmful habits. Numerous pharmacological and psychological models were developed to help people quit their smoking habit. Schwartz writes that the process of smoking cessation usually includes three stages: preparation, intervention, and maintenance (451). In all these stages, smokers actively use professional assistance through counseling, nicotine replacement, acupuncture and hypnosis, and other treatment methods. Still, the best and most cost-effective strategy is self-care (Schwartz 451). In other words, those who want to quit smoking need motivation and a strong desire to get rid of their harmful habit. The existing medical interventions can ease the emotional and physical problems associated with smoke cessation, but they will never replace self-care. Those, who want to quit smoking, should be prepared to fight for their health. They should have patience and persistence, because smoking cessation may become one of the most difficult periods in life. Eventually, it will help in reducing the most prevalent health risks of smoking and make the life much more colorful and self-fulfilling.

Conclusion

Cigarette smoking is responsible for numerous harmful impacts on human health. Smoking affects all organs and body systems. Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have lung diseases and asthma, cardiovascular diseases, weight problems, and diabetes. Those, who smoke cigarettes, face increased risks of stroke and various mental health complications, including anxiety and distress. Those, who do not smoke but inhale cigarette smoke, can also develop numerous cardiovascular complications. The severity of these health problems depends on the duration of smoking and the number of cigarettes smoked on a daily basis. Despite certain developments in medicine, self-care and self-motivation are still the most effective ways to quit smoking. Those, who want to quit smoking, should have a strong desire and motivation to get rid of their harmful habit. 

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