What problems are caused by smoking?
Medical Revising Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
By smoking, you can cause health problems not only for yourself but also for those around you.
Smoking is an addiction. Tobacco contains nicotine, a drug that is addictive. The nicotine, therefore, makes it very difficult (although not impossible) to quit. In fact, since the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report on the dangers of smoking, millions of Americans have quit. Still, approximately 440,000 deaths occur in the U.S. each year from smoking-related illnesses; this represents almost 1 out of every 5 deaths. The reason for these deaths is that smoking greatly increases the risk of getting lung cancer, heart attack, chronic lung disease, stroke, and many other cancers. Moreover, smoking is perhaps the most preventable cause of breathing (respiratory) diseases within the USA.
Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, coworkers, and others who breathe the smoker's cigarette smoke, called secondhand smoke or passive smoke. Among infants up to 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is associated with as many as 300,000 cases of chronic bronchitis and pneumonia each year. In addition, secondhand smoke from a parent's cigarette increases a child's chances for middle ear problems, causes coughing and wheezing, worsens asthma, and increases an infant's risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Smoking is also harmful to the unborn fetus. If a pregnant woman smokes, her fetus is at an increased risk of miscarriage, early delivery (prematurity), stillbirth, infant death, and low birth weight. In fact, it has been estimated that if all women quit smoking during pregnancy, about 4,000 new babies would not die each year.
Exposure to passive smoke can also cause cancer. Research has shown that non-smokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other non-smokers. An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year in the U.S. that are attributable to passive smoking. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. If both parents smoke, a teenager is more than twice as likely to smoke as a teenager whose parents are both nonsmokers. Even in households where only one parent smokes, young people are more likely to start smoking.
What is addictive disease and why is smoking considered an addictive disease?
The term addictive disease or addiction describes a persistent habit that is harmful to the person. Thus, addiction is a chronic (long duration) disease with reliance on the substance causing the addiction. The addictive substance also causes the accompanying deterioration of a person's physical and psychological health.
Psychologically, an individual's behavior pattern establishes how the addictive substance is used. One type of behavior is compulsive behavior, which is an overwhelming and irresistible interest in use of the substance. For example, the compulsive addict makes sure that the substance is always available. Another type of behavior is habitual behavior, which is using the substance regularly or occasionally for the desirable effects. Physically, continuous use of the substance leads to dependence on the drug by the body. This dependence means that when the drug is discontinued, symptoms of withdrawal or distress occur.
Nicotine is the component of cigarettes that addicts. Almost immediately upon inhalation, the body responds to the nicotine. An individual feels relaxed, calmer, and happier than before the inhalation. These pleasant feelings reflect the physical side of addiction; but then, not smoking cigarettes causes a craving for more cigarettes, irritability, impatience, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms. Indeed, these symptoms are the symptoms of withdrawal from cigarettes. Moreover, with time, more and more nicotine is desired to produce the favorable effects and to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal.
What are the signs of cigarette addiction?
The signs of addiction to cigarettes include:
Why should someone quit smoking?
Quitting smoking makes a difference right away in the way you feel. You can taste and smell food better. Your breath smells better. Your cough goes away. These benefits happen for men and women of all ages, even those who are older. They happen for healthy people as well as those who already have a disease or condition caused by smoking.
Even more importantly, in the long run, quitting smoking cuts the risk of lung cancer, many other cancers, heart disease, stroke, and other lung or breathing (respiratory) diseases (for example, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and emphysema). Moreover, ex-smokers have better health than current smokers. For example, ex-smokers have fewer days of illness, fewer health complaints, and less frequent bouts with chronic bronchitis and pneumonia than current smokers.
Finally, quitting smoking saves money. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is approximately $4.50 to $5.00 a pack (depending on where you live). A smoker with a pack a day habit spends approximately $31.50 per week ($1,638 per year).