By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , /


Every time you
smoke a cigarette, toxic gases pass into your lungs,
then into your bloodstream, where they spread to
every organ in your body. A cigarette is made
using the tobacco leaf, which contains nicotine
and a variety of other compounds. As the tobacco and
compounds burn, they release thousands of
dangerous chemicals, including over forty known
to cause cancer. Cigarette smoke contains the poisonous gases
carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as trace amounts of
cancer-causing radioactive particles. All forms of tobacco are dangerous, including cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff. Nicotine is an addictive chemical in tobacco.
After you inhale tobacco smoke, nicotine flows through the bloodstream to
your brain, where it induces a pleasurable feeling. When you repeatedly expose your brain to nicotine, it becomes desensitized,making you crave
more and more nicotine just to feel normal. Smoking causes death. People who smoke typically die
at an earlier age than non-smokers. In fact, 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States
is linked to cigarette smoking. If you smoke, your risk for major health problems increases dramatically, including:
heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, and death from
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking causes cardiovascular disease.
When nicotine flows through your adrenal glands, it stimulates the release of epinephrine,
a hormone that raises your blood pressure. In addition, nicotine and carbon monoxide
can damage the lining of the inner walls in your arteries. Fatty deposits, called plaque, can build up at these injury sites and become large enough
to narrow the arteries and severely reduce blood flow, resulting in a condition
called atherosclerosis. In coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis
narrows the arteries that supply the heart, which reduces the supply of oxygen to your
heart muscle, increasing your risk for a heart attack. Smoking also raises your risk for blood clots because it causes platelets in your blood
to clump together. Smoking increases your risk for
peripheral vascular disease, in which atherosclerotic plaques block the
large arteries in your arms and legs. Smoking can also cause an
abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is a swelling or weakening of your aorta
where it runs through your abdomen. Smoking damages two main parts of your lungs:
your airways, also called bronchial tubes, and small air sacs called alveoli. With each breath, air travels down
your windpipe, called the trachea, and enters your lungs through your bronchial tubes. Air then moves into
thousands of tiny alveoli, where oxygen from the air
moves into your bloodstream and the waste product carbon dioxide
moves out of your bloodstream. Tiny hair-like projections, called cilia, line your bronchial tubes and sweep harmful
substances out of your lungs. Cigarette smoke irritates the lining of your
bronchial tubes, causing them to swell and make mucus. Cigarette smoke also slows
the movement of your cilia, causing some of the smoke
and mucus to stay in your lungs. While you are sleeping,
some of the cilia recover and start pushing more pollutants
and mucus out of your lungs. When you wake up, your body attempts to expel
this material by coughing repeatedly, a condition known as
smoker’s cough. Over time, chronic bronchitis develops
as your cilia stop working, your airways become clogged with scars and mucus,
and breathing becomes difficult. Your lungs are now more vulnerable to further disease. Cigarette smoke also
damages your alveoli, making it harder for oxygen and
carbon dioxide to exchange with your blood. Over time, so little oxygen can reach your
blood that you may develop emphysema, a condition in which you must gasp for every
breath and wear an oxygen tube under your nose
in order to breathe. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema
are collectively called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
or COPD. COPD is a gradual loss of the ability to breathe
for which there is no cure. Cigarette smoke contains at least 40 cancer-causing
substances, called carcinogens, including cyanide, formaldehyde,
benzene, and ammonia. In your body, healthy cells grow,
make new cells, then die. Genetic material inside each cell,
called DNA, directs this process. If you smoke, toxic chemicals
can damage the DNA in your healthy cells. As a result, your damaged cells
create new unhealthy cells, which grow out of control
and may spread to other parts of your body. The most common cancer
in the world is lung cancer, with over a million new cases
diagnosed every year. Harmful chemicals in cigarettes can cause
cancer in other parts of your body, such as: in the blood and bone marrow,
mouth, larynx, throat, esophagus, stomach,
pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, and cervix. Smoking can cause infertility
in both men and women. If a woman is pregnant and
smokes during pregnancy, she exposes her baby to the cigarette’s poisonous
chemicals, causing a greater risk of: low birth weight, miscarriage,
preterm delivery, stillbirth, infant death, and
sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking is also dangerous
if a mother is breastfeeding. Nicotine passes to the baby
through breast milk, and can cause restlessness, rapid heartbeat,
vomiting, interrupted sleep, or diarrhea. Other health effects of smoking
include low bone density and increased risk for hip
fracture among women; gum disease, often leading
to tooth loss and surgery; immune system dysfunction
and delayed wound healing; and sexual impotence in men.


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