Cigarettes are one of the most abused substances that, despite having numerous harmful effects on our body, continue to be used increasingly. Ironically, some even burn this 70 mm poisonous pipe as they feel that it is cool to smoke! Without any philosophical sermons, let us move into the bio-chemical aspects of what a cigarette really is, and what effects it can have on our body?
What is a Cigarette? An average cigarette houses about 600 ingredients. On burning, it generates more than 7,000 chemicals (along with nicotine), and about 60 of them can cause cancer.
Effects of Cigarette on our body:
- Nicotine is an addictive chemical that develops the addictive craving in smoker. It is a central nervous system stimulant. It reaches the brain in seconds giving instant kick and feeling of energy. But as that effect subsides, one feels tired and craves more. It also causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood) leading to hypertension and reduced blood flow to flood. Due to its stimulant effect on heart, it can cause palpitations, rapid heart rate and arrhythmias. It has a depressant effect on appetite. Such loss of appetite is also accompanied by constipation and indigestion.
- Tar is a brown and sticky collection of particles that stains teeth, fingernails and lung tissue. It has benzo(a)pyrene that can cause cancer.
- Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in your haemoglobin. Due to this, body has to make more red blood cells to carry oxygen causing thickening of blood. Thick blood is more prone to clotting, and hence heart attacks and stroke.
- Hydrogen cyanide destroys cilia (tiny hairs in lungs to clear foreign substances) which causes more accumulation of poisonous substances in lungs.
- Oxidising chemicals in cigarettes react with cholesterol leading to deposition of fatty substances on wall of arteries. Such deposition leads to stroke, heart disease and vascular diseases.
- Carcinogens like arsenic, cadmium, lead, etc can cause cancers of lips, tongue, lung, larynx, throat, oesophagus, kidney, stomach, testis, cervix, etc.
- Skin becomes dull, wrinkled and grey due to premature ageing caused by reduced oxygen flow.
- Reduced fertility: Smoking reduces sperm count and damaged sperm in males. It also reduces fertility in women.
- Brittle bones: Smokers are more likely to have osteoporosis.
- Immune system: Smoking reduces levels of protective antioxidants in blood and increases susceptibility to infections.
However, the good news is that the risk of having a heart attack is reduced to half only after one year of quitting cigarette. And after two years of non-smoking, the risk of stroke is reduced to half, and becomes same as non-smoker after five sober years.
So, what are you waiting for? Cigarette is poison, Quit Now!
-Dr. Deepak Kripal