TOBACCO use is one of the most recognised causes of preventable deaths, killing more than eight million people worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
More than seven million of the deaths are the direct result of tobacco use, while, according to the WHO, 1,2 million are the result of exposure to second-hand smoke, that is exposure of non smokers to tobacco smoke.
On Wednesday the World Health Organisation marked World No Tobacco Day, as it does every year on May 31, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
Tobacco kills up to half of the people who use it, according to the WHO.
Smoking can have long-term negative effects on your body, leading to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The negative effect of smoking that is best known is its effect on the lungs. It is a major cause of lung cancer and emphysema.
However, it is not only your lungs that are at risk if you smoke tobacco. Smoking is a risk factor for almost every non-communicable disease, including heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer. It can even adversely affect your eyesight.
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Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco is dangerous for your health. Tobacco products contain or generate unsafe substances, such as acetone, tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. The inhaled substances can adversely affect your lungs and the other organs in your body.
Smoking can lead to ongoing complications and long-term effects on your body systems. While smoking can increase your risk of certain health conditions over years, such as glaucoma, cancer and issues with blood clotting, some of the bodily effects happen immediately.
There is no safe way to smoke. Replacing your cigarette with a cigar, pipe, e-cigarette or a hookah will not help you avoid the health risks.
According to the American Lung Association, cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. Many of these ingredients are also in cigars and hookahs. When they burn, they generate more than 7 000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. At least 69 of them are carcinogenic or known to cause cancer.
Smoking can harm various organs in your body. It can increase inflammation throughout your body and negatively affect your immune system, which may make you more susceptible to infection.
A well-studied link exists between smoking and many types of cancer. Smoking can increase your risk of developing cancer not only in your lungs but almost anywhere in your body.
One of the ingredients in tobacco is nicotine, which is a mood-altering drug. Nicotine is habit-forming and highly addictive, which is why smokers often find it so difficult to quit smoking.
Nicotine reaches your brain in seconds. It can energise you for a while but as the effect wears off you may feel tired and crave more.
Physical withdrawal from nicotine can impair your ability to think and make you feel negative emotions. These may include anxiety, irritability and depression. Withdrawal can also cause headaches and trouble sleeping.
Smoking can eventually affect your vision and optic nerve. It may lead to various conditions that affect the eyes.
It damages the airways, air sacs in the lungs and cilia, which are tiny hair-like structures that prevent dirt and mucus from entering your lungs.
Smoking may cause you to develop a chronic cough. It can worsen asthma attacks, if you have asthma.
Lung damage, due to smoking, includes irreparable tissue loss. The damage to the respiratory system makes you more susceptible to certain infections that affect the lungs, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. It increases the possibility of death from those illnesses.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. People who smoke are 20 times more likely than non smokers to be diagnosed with lung cancer.
Other non-reversible lung conditions that may be caused by smoking include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Children whose parents or caregivers smoke cigarettes in their presence may experience certain health conditions at a higher rate than children whose caregivers do not smoke.
These can include coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, pneumonia, tuberculosis, bronchitis, reduced lung function, impaired lung growth and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Babies may be born with underdeveloped lungs if a pregnant woman smokes during pregnancy.
Nicotine affects blood flow to the genital areas of both men and women, sometimes contributing to fertility issues and lower sex hormone levels in both men and women, leading to decreased sexual desire.
In women, it can result in sexual dissatisfaction by decreasing lubrication and the ability to reach orgasm. Menopause may also occur earlier in smokers than in non-smokers.
Smoking influences hormone production and can make it harder for women to become pregnant. It can also increase the risk of early delivery, low birth weight, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome, ectopic pregnancy and cleft palate and lip.
In men, smoking may decrease sexual performance. It can negatively affect the function of blood vessels, which may restrict the blood flow needed to achieve an erection. This may result in erectile dysfunction and fertility problems.
Smoking can also damage the DNA in sperm, making it difficult to conceive and increasing the risk of miscarriage and certain birth defects.
Tips on quitting smoking
If you do not smoke, it is best never to start to do so. If you do smoke, it is never too late to quit the habit.
While it is best to quit smoking as early as possible, quitting smoking at any age will improve the likely length and quality of your life.
You will also save money and may even inspire those around you to quit smoking.
Stress management is key. Many smokers smoke to manage stress, distress and negative emotions.
Finding other ways to manage these feelings can be difficult and takes a lot of practice.
Be confident. Confidence that your attempt will be successful is important. Your confidence can increase when you make and achieve a series of small goals, when you visualise your success and when you feel as if you have the tools ready for any situation.
You can also consult your doctor or other healthcare professional on other methods that can help you cut down on and eventually stop smoking completely.
- The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — [email protected] or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663