Smoking is the second major cause of mortality in the world. Every year, between 3.5 and 5.4 million people die from the diseases caused by smoking. In developed countries, the life expectancy of smokers is less than non-smokers one by an average of 11-13 years. Moreover, if this trend continues until 2030, a minimum of 10 million people will be dying of smoking each year.
Of all the deaths, deaths caused by smoking are most easily preventable. For example, the main cause of lung cancer is smoking (90% of cases). For women, the number of deaths from lung cancer caused by smoking is higher than deaths from breast cancer.
Passive smoking is very dangerous for the family members, especially children. Because of passive smoking, nonsmoking family members have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than members of the households where no one smokes. Also, smoking causes chromosomal mutations which lead to serious diseases or deformities for the next generations. Smokers and their families are 5 times more likely to seek treatment than non-smokers families.
Overall medical impact of smoking on the human organism
Smoking and its major agent, nicotine, affect almost all organs, but the greatest effect is projected towards the central nervous system, respiratory, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
The general effect of nicotine on the humans is hugely negative. It contributes to the development of atherosclerosis which can lead to the heart strokes and heart diseases. Nicotine causes thrombosis and carries carcinogenic activity. The worst effect of nicotine on the human body is its ability to cause cell mutation, the consequences of which only worsen for the next generations.
How the smoking habit evolves and what its effects on the human organism are
Smoking causes a rapid development of a habit. The impact of the nicotine on a human organism can be divided into 3 phases:
1st phase: occurs within 24-28 hours after the smoker has ceased to consume nicotine and is characterized by the development of the withdrawal symptoms. These include anxiety, poor sleep, decreased attention, irritability, headache, fatigue. If the smoker continues to refrain from smoking, the withdrawal symptoms usually pass within 2 weeks, but some discomfort may persist up to 2 months. It is the nicotine that causes addiction, so smokers should reduce the number of smoked cigarettes per day.
2nd phase: stress and boredom trigger the development of smoking into a habit. The way of holding the cigarette, a characteristic squint, inhaling smoke through the nose – all of this creates a kind of a ritual that every smoker has. These rituals only get stronger due to the fact that nicotine activates the central nervous system.
3rd phase: nicotine enters the brain within seconds and immediately causes a pleasant feeling. Gradually, a smoker can no longer live without these pleasurable sensations and so the addiction is fully formed.
The impact of smoking on the lungs
Lungs suffer most from the negative effects of smoking as respiratory tract is the main channel through which the tobacco smoke enters the organism. Tobacco smoke damages the pulmonary epithelium and this causes:
● a morning cough;
● chronic bronchitis;
● chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases;
● lungs cancer.
Moreover, the probability of development of emphysema and chronic bronchitis among smokers is ten times higher than that among nonsmokers. Lung cancer kills more men than women (this is due to the fact that absolutely all countries in the world have more male smokers than female ones).
Once inhaled, nicotine and other components of the tobacco smoke pass through the trachea, bronchus and alveoli and are then being absorbed into the blood. Eight seconds after inhaling, nicotine enters the brain and its concentration starts decreasing only after 30 minutes of smoking. The main process of the nicotine metabolism occurs in the liver, kidneys and lungs.
The impact of smoking on the central nervous system
The effect of nicotine on the brain is huge. First, there is a brain stimulation, followed by a gradual depression. Next, to meet their needs, smokers require a minimum of 10 cigarettes (20 mg nicotine each), with every cigarette containing about 2 mg. of nicotine.
Beginning smokers usually react with vomiting which is the defence mechanism triggered by the nicotine intoxication. Other effects include increased sensitivity, improved short-term memory, decreased reaction time, improved attention, decreased appetite and a feeling of anxiety, the general feeling of relaxation. However, all positive aspects disappear quickly, once the concentration of nicotine in the brain decreases.
The impact of smoking on the cardiovascular system
Smoking increases blood pressure and cardiac output and improves coronary blood flow which increases the delivery of blood to the skeletal muscles. However, once the nicotine concentration falls, the negative aspects start manifesting themselves. Blood pressure drops significantly, vasoconstriction occurs, skeletal muscle oxygen supply is greatly reduced; the fatty acids, lactate and glycerol percentage in blood increases.
The impact of smoking on the endocrine system
Nicotine contributes to the development of early menopause in women, increases the risk of osteoporosis, increases metabolic rate, causes bigger amounts of catecholamines, adrenocorticotropic hormones, endorphins and vasopressin released into the blood.
The impact of smoking on the digestive system
Smoking negatively affects the digestive system, causing and further exacerbating diseases such as:
● gastric ulcer;
● duodenal ulcer;
● inflammatory bowel disease.
Mortal cases among smokers having ulcer are twice higher than among nonsmokers.
The impact of smoking on the genito-urinary system
Nicotine and various carcinogens contained in tobacco smoke are released via the kidneys and urinary tract, which is why a large number of smokers suffer from kidney and urinary organs diseases.
Smoking a half pack of cigarettes per day leads to the development of sexual dysfunction (impotence). Also, cigarette carcinogens contribute to the degeneration of the tissues of the sex glands, which leads to the reduced libido. Sexual activity is nearing zero, the sexual activity of the cells may disappear almost completely, which can lead to male infertility.
Among smoking women, their libido is also reduced. In addition, the regularity and duration of menstrual cycles can be broken. Cigarette carcinogens can form tumors in the female reproductive organs.
The effects of smoking are particularly harmful to pregnant women, causing irrevocable damage to both mother and child.
The symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning
Acute nicotine poisoning is characterized by:
● nausea and vomiting;
● stomach ache;
● rapid pulse and high blood pressure;
● weak pulse and low blood pressure 30 minutes after smoking;
● clouding of consciousness;
● general weakness;
● decrease in vitality.
Nicotine poisoning is usually quite rare and mainly occurs among children trying to smoke the adult dose.