Smoking is a habit that is common throughout the world; according to one estimate, there are over one billion smokers in the world, about 800 million of which are in developing countries like Pakistan. Isn’t it a big figure? The World Health Organization terms it as a greater cause of death and disabilities than any single disease.
Smoking is a health hazard, it is not good for any living being. Studies have shown that smoking can be the possible cause of about 25 disease; most of them being lung diseases and can affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease). There are nearly five million estimated deaths per year due to smoking and this figure is expected to rise to 10 million by 2020.
Most smokers know that what they are inhaling is injurious to health and will cause lifelong damage to their bodies, yet they continue to smoke because they find it exceedingly difficult to give up the habit. What can be the reason? Have anyone ever thought about it?
Well, the substance that is used for smoking is tobacco; it produces smoke when burnt and this is inhaled in the form of cigarette but other means too like pipes, cigar and hookahs etcetera.
There are nearly 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, including 43 known cancer-causing, compounds and 400 other toxins. These cigarette ingredients include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. It is not difficult to imagine the effect that humans have on the respiratory and other systems of the human body. Carcinogenic substances cause cancer. Apart from these there are poisons like ammonia, carbon, monoxide, and cyanide that also travel into the body when inhaled.
Why people are addicted to it? The main reason is the presence of a chemical called nicotine, which is found in tobacco leaves. Nicotine is addictive, which means that the body gets used to have a certain amount of that chemical in the blood. If the body does not get its usual dose of nicotine, the person might suffer from headaches, drowsiness, or other unpleasant side-effects.
Since all the smoke goes into the body through the respiratory canal, it is inevitable that the lung tissues are badly affected and there is a huge risk of cancer which in most cases is fatal. Another painful condition is emphysema or chronic bronchitis in which cigarette smoke starts damaging the respiratory tract and lungs gradually, reaching a stage whereby the person finds it extremely difficult to breathe.
Smoking also damages the heart, leading to hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis), thus reducing blood supply to the heart and depriving it of essential nourishment and oxygen, causing a heart-attack; in such a case a person may require expensive surgery.
Another factor of greatest concern is that cigarette smoke is not only harmful for the smoker but also for those who are near him and are inhaling the smoke – they are the ‘Passive Smokers’, and are at equal risk, as the smoker, of suffering from cancer, heart/lung diseases. It is mainly for this reason that many countries have banned smoking in public places and transport.
There are many reasons that people start smoking, peer pressure being one of them. Young people, especially teenagers, may get into the habit because they have been persuaded by friends who are smokers; some may not need any persuasion.
Children whose parents are smokers are quite likely to take a few puffs now and then and get hooked for life. People smoke excessively when they are under stress; they think that smoking helps calming their nerves and relaxing them.
Well, nicotine is not a relaxant but a stimulant; it does not help in releasing tension or stress. People feel unwind when they smoke because they get the nicotine which their bodies are craving for. It does not take many cigarette to become a habitual smoker – nicotine is so addictive that ‘in less than one packet of cigarette a person’s brain can be changed forever from that of a non-smoker to a nicotine-addicted smoker’.