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Health effects of tobacco

    ''For the article on tobacco smoking see tobacco smoking|here; for the article on passive smoking see passive smoking|here''
    The United States' Centers for Control and Prevention] describes tobacco use as "the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide"1
    An indirect public health problem posed by cigarettes is that of accidental fires usually linked with consumption of alcohol Numerous cigarette designs have been proposed some by tobacco companies themselves which would extinguish a cigarette left unattended for more than a minute or two thereby reducing the risk of fire However the tobacco companies have historically resisted this idea on the grounds that the nuisance involved in having to relight a cigarette left untouched for too long would reduce their sales In fact untreated tobacco formed into a cigarette will extinguish itself relatively quickly if left alone and as a result cigarette tobacco is treated chemically to allow it to smolder indefinitely
    The main health risks in tobacco pertain to diseases of the cardiovascular system in particular smoking being a major risk factor for a myocardial infarction (heart attack) diseases of the respiratory tract such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema and cancer particularly lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and tongue Prior to World War I lung cancer was considered to be a rare disease which most physicians would never see during their career With the postwar rise in popularity of cigarette smoking however came a virtual epidemic of lung cancer
    A person's increased risk of contracting disease is directly proportional to the length of time that a person continues to smoke as well as the amount smoked However if someone stops smoking then these chances steadily although gradually decrease as the damage to their body is repaired
    Diseases linked to smoking tobacco cigarettes include:
    Cigar and pipe smokers tend to inhale less smoke than cigarette smokers so their risk of lung cancer is lower but is still several times higher than the risk for nonsmokers Pipe and cigar smokers are also at risk for cancers of the oral cavity larynx (voice box) or esophagus a risk which was widely hypothesized before any link between smoking and cancer was scientifically proved as seen in the news coverage of the tobacco-related cancers of two American presidents; Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885 at age 63 after a long and painful public battle with throat cancer which was widely assumed at the time to be the result of his lifelong cigar habit and his successor Grover Cleveland was diagnosed in 1893 with cancer of the left jaw which was frequently remarked upon by the press and public as the side where he usually had a cigar clamped Similarly cancer of the mouth and jaw is also a risk for chewing tobacco If you quit smoking benefits come immediatelyAfter 20 minutes with out smoking a smoker’s blood pressure and pulse rate reduce to normal as does the body temperature of his or her feet and hands 8 hours; carbon monoxide level drops and oxygen level rises to normal 1 day; the risk of a heart attack decreases 2 days; a smoker’s ability to taste and smell is enhanced 2 weeks; circulation improves walking is easier and breathing efficiency increases by nearly 30% 1 year; the risk of coronary disease declines by 50%
    It is generally assumed that the major motivational factor behind smoking is the nicotine it contains However the practice of ingesting the smoke from a smoldering leaf generates an enormous number of active chemical compounds loosely lumped together as 'tar' many of which are biologically reactive and potential health dangers (Chewing tobacco is also carcinogenic likely because similar compounds are generated in the practice of curing it; the Nordic snus which is steam cured and therefore does not generate these compounds is much less carcinogenic) There are around 3000 chemicals found in tobacco smokeLong term exposure to other compounds in the smoke such as carbon monoxide cyanide and other compounds that damage lung and arterial tissue are believed to be responsible for cardiovascular damage and for loss of elasticity in the alveoli leading to emphysema and COPD

    Tobacco and spontaneous abortion

    A number of studies have shown that tobacco use is a significant factor in spontaneous abortions among pregnant smokers and that it contributes to a number of other threats to the health of the fetus Second-hand smoke appears to present an equal danger to the fetus as one study noted that "heavy paternal smoking increased the risk of early pregnancy loss" Many governments require printed rotating health warnings on cigarette packages

    Radioactive components of tobacco

    In addition to chemical nonradioactive carcinogens tobacco and tobacco smoke contain small amounts of lead-210 (210Pb) and polonium-210 (210Po) both of which are radioactive carcinogens Lead 210 is a product of the decay of radium-226 and in turn its decay product radon-222; lead 210 then decays to bismuth-210 and then to polonium 210 emitting beta particles in both steps Tarry particles containing these elements lodge in the smokers' lungs where airflow is disturbed; the concentration found where bronchioles bifurcate is 100 times higher than that in the lungs overall This gives smokers much more intense exposure than would otherwise be encountered Polonium 210 for instance emits high energy alpha particles which because of their large mass are considered to be incapable of penetrating the skin more than 40 micrometres deep but do considerable damage (estimated at 100 times as much chromosome damage as a corresponding amount of other radiation) when a process such as smoking causes them to be emitted within the body where all their energy is absorbed by surrounding tissue (Polonium 210 also emits gamma rays)
    The radioactive elements in tobacco are accumulated from the minerals in the soil as with any plant but are also captured on the sticky surface of the tobacco leaves in excess of what would be seen with plants not having this property As might be expected the radioactivity measured in tobacco varies widely depending on where and how it is grown One study found that tobacco grown in India averaged only 009 pCi per gram of polonium 210 whereas tobacco grown in the United States averaged 0516 pCi per gram Another study of Indian tobacco however measured an average of 0.4 pCi of polonium 210 per cigarette which also would be approximately a gram of tobacco One factor in the difference between India and the United States may be the extensive use of apatite as fertilizer for tobacco in the United States because it starves the plant for nitrogen thereby producing more flavorful tobacco; apatite is known to contain radium lead 210 and polonium 210 This would also account for increased concentration of these elements compared to other crops which do not use this mineral as fertilizer
    Smoke from one cigarette is reported to contain 00263 - 0036 pCi of polonium 210 which is equivalent to about 0.1 pCi per milligram of smoke; or about 081 pCi of lead 210 per gram of dry condensed smoke The amount of polonium 210 inhaled from a pack of 20 cigarettes is therefore about 072 pCi This seems to be independent of any form of filtering or 'low tar' cigarette This concentration results in a highly significant increase in the body burden of these compounds Compared to nonsmokers heavy smokers have four times greater radioisotope density throughout their lungs The polonium 210 content of blood in smokers averages 172 pCi per kilogram compared to 076 pCi per kilogram in nonsmokers Higher concentrations of polonium 210 are also found in the livers of smokers than nonsmokers Polonium 210 is also known to be incorporated into bone tissue where the continued irradiation of bone marrow may be a cause of leukemia although this has not been proved as yet
    The alpha particle dosage from polonium 210 received by smokers of two packs a day has been measured at 825 millirads per day which would total 7525 rad per 25 years 150 times higher than the approximately 5 rem received from natural background radiation over 25 years Other estimates of the dosage absorbed over 25 years of heavy smoking range from 165 to 1000 rem all significantly higher than natural background In the case of the less radioactive Indian tobacco referred to above the dosage received from polonium 210 is about 24 millirads a day totalling 219 rads over 25 years or still about 40 times the natural background radiation exposure In fact all these numbers of total body burden are misleadingly low because the dosage rate in the immediate vicinity of the deposited polonium 210 in the lungs can be from 100 to 10000 times greater than natural background radiation Lung cancer is seen in laboratory animals exposed to approximately one fifth of this total dosage of polonium 210
    Whether the quantities of these elements are sufficient to cause cancer is still a matter of debate Most studies of carcinogenicity of tobacco smoke involve painting tar condensed from smoke onto the skin of mice and monitoring for development of tumors of the skin a relatively simple process However the specific properties of polonium 210 and lead 210 and the model for their action as described above do not permit such a simple assay and require more difficult studies requiring dosage of the mice in a manner mimicing smoking behavior of humans and monitoring for lung cancer more difficult to observe as it is internal to the mouse
    Some researchers suggest that the degree of carcinogenicity of these radioactive elements is sufficient to account for most if not all cases of lung cancer related to smoking In support of this hypothetical link between radioactive elements in tobacco and cancer is the observation that bladder cancer incidence is also proportional to the amount of tobacco smoked even though nonradioactive carcinogens have not been detected in the urine of even heavy smokers; however urine of smokers contains about six times more polonium 210 than that of nonsmokers suggesting strongly that the polonium 210 is the cause of the bladder carcinogenicity and would be expected to act similarly in the lungs and other tissue Furthermore many of the lung cancers contracted by cigarette smokers are adenocarcinomas which are characteristic of the type of damage produced by alpha particle radiation such as that of polonium 210 It has also been suggested that the radioactive and chemical carcinogens in tobacco smoke act synergistically to cause a higher incidence of cancer than each alone
    Skeptics of the role of polonium 210 in lung cancer note that it is soluble in water and thus would be excreted (confirmed by the high polonium 210 concentrations in the urine of smokers referred to above) However the inhibition of the clearing action of the cilia in the respiratory tract by tobacco smoke the stickiness of the particles of tar precipitated from the smoke and deposits within the lung of insoluble lead 210 which then breaks down into polonium 210 have all been postulated as mechanisms by which polonium 210 exposure continues for long periods Even after having stopped smoking for a year concentrations of lead 210 and polonium 210 in rib bones and alveolar lung tissue remain twice as high in ex-smokers as in those who had never smoked

    Beneficial effects of smoking

    Tobacco has sometimes been reported to have some positive health effects presumably due to the effects of nicotine on the nervous system Most notably some studies have found that patients with Alzheimer's Disease are more likely not to have smoked than the general population which has been interpreted to suggest that smoking offers some protection against Alzheimers However the research in this area is limited and the results are mixed Some studies show that smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer's Disease A recent review of the available scientific literature concluded that the apparent decrease in Alzheimer risk may be simply due to the fact that smokers tend to die before reaching the age at which Alzheimer normally occurs "Differential mortality is always likely to be a problem where there is a need to investigate the effects of smoking in a disorder with very low incidence rates before age 75 years which is the case of Alzheimer's disease" it stated noting that smokers are only half as likely as non-smokers to survive to the age of 80.
    Smoking is more prevalent among the mentally ill than among the general population and it has been theorized that nicotine may have a calming effect that alleviates some negative symptoms of psychiatric illnesses This however would be a contradiction of the fact that nicotine is a stimulant and can increase feelings of anxiety; the 'calming' effect merely arising from the rather complex nature of tobacco addiction and short-term withdrawal Other studies have found that smoking is associated with slightly reduced incidence of Parkinson's disease and ulcerative colitis In women smoking has been linked to decreased rates of endometriosis endometrial cancer development of leiomyomata and hypertension during pregnancy
    Controversially smoking can also prevent and in some cases 'cure' asthma as the smoke particulates have a tendency to desensitise the bronchia therefore preventing the onset of bronchiospasms when around allergenic substances or asthmatic attack causing environs This topic is hotly argued between doctors and laymen alike having a widespread reputation via word of mouth is the primary basis of the allegations whilst scientific testing is inconclusive or alternately aligned depending on sources

    Nicotine and addiction

    Nicotine is a powerful stimulant and is one of the main factors leading to the continued tobacco smoking Although the amount of nicotine inhaled with tobacco smoke is quite small (most of the substance is destroyed by the heat) it is still sufficient to cause physical and/or psychological dependence The amount of nicotine absorbed by the body from smoking depends on many factors including the type of tobacco whether the smoke is inhaled and whether a filter is used Despite the design of various cigarettes advertised and even tested on machines to deliver less of the toxic tar studies show that when smoked by humans instead of machines they deliver the same net amount of smoke Ingesting a compound by smoking is one of the most rapid and efficient methods of introducing it into the bloodstream second only to injection which allows for the rapid feedback which supports the smokers' ability to titrate their dosage On average it takes about seven seconds for the substance to reach the brain
    Although nicotine does play a role in acute episodes of some diseases (including stroke impotence and heart disease) by its stimulation of adrenaline release which raises blood pressure heart rate and free fatty acids the most serious longer term effects are more the result of the products of the smoldering combustion process This has enabled development of various nicotine delivery systems such as the nicotine patch or nicotine gum that can satisfy the addictive craving by delivering nicotine without the harmful combustion byproducts This can help the heavily dependent smoker to quit gradually while discontinuing further damage to health

    Smoking and cardiovascular disease

    Smoking also increases the chance of heart disease Several ingredients of tobacco lead to the narrowing of blood vessels increasing the likelihood of a blockage and thus a heart attack or stroke According to a study by an international team of researchers people under 40 are five times more likely to have a heart attack if they smoke
    Other tobacco chemicals lead to high blood pressure Also some chemicals may damage the inside of arteries for example making it possible for cholesterol to adhere to the artery wall possibly leading to a heart attack

    Epidemiology of smoking

    A team of British scientists headed by Richard Doll carried out a longitudinal study of 34439 medical specialists from 1951 to 2001 generally called the "British doctors study" The study demonstrated that smoking decreased life expectancy by 10 years and that almost half of the smokers died from smoking (cancer heart disease and stroke) About 5900 of the study participants are still alive and only 134 of them still smoke

    Effects on smokers

    Smokers report a variety of physical and psychological effects from smoking tobacco Those new to smoking will experience nausea dizziness and rapid heart beat The negative symptoms will eventually vanish over time with repeated use as the body builds a tolerance to the nicotine Nicotine is an unusual chemical because when absorbed slowly it can act as a sedative and when absorbed quickly it can act as a stimulant Pipe and cigar smokers usually experience more of the sedative/relaxation effect while cigarette smokers usually experience more of the stimulant effect
    In many respects nicotine acts on the nervous system in a similar way to caffeine Some writings have stated that smoking can also increase mental concentration Most smokers say they enjoy smoking which is part of the reason why many continue to do so even though they are aware of the health risks Taste smell and visual enjoyment are also major contributions to the enjoyment of smoking in addition to camaraderie with other smokers Paradoxically chronic exposure to tobacco smoke inhibits one's sense of taste and smell rendering them unable to enjoy this aspect of tobacco smoking
    Famous smokers of the past used cigarettes or pipes as part of their image such as Jean Paul Sartre's Gauloise (a French cigarette particularly odorous and powerful in its traditional unfiltered form) Bertrand Russell's pipe or the news broadcaster Edward R. Murrow's cigarette Writers in particular seemed to have had difficulty in the past with smoking perhaps because as writers they succumb to tobacco's fictions and in effect those fictions become the writer's : see for example Richard Klein's book Cigarettes are Sublime for the analysis by this Cornell University professor of French literature of the role smoking plays in 19th and 20th century letters
    Many smokers are defensive about their habit and skeptical about scientific predictions while crediting science in all other areas of their lives but successful ex-smokers are often quite happy and relieved as well as proud of their success One case was Edward R. Murrow as mentioned above who after leaving CBS and joining the United States Information Agency under President Kennedy was diagnosed with lung cancer Despite the death sentence this implied Murrow was able to quit in the time remaining to him and was very open about the benefits he experienced
    In April 2005 the ABC News anchor Peter Jennings appeared on-air to report his own diagnosis of lung cancer Jennings had quit smoking in 1985 but confessed that he'd started again after the September 11 attacks when he had been on air for over 60 hours and had to announce the multiple tragedies of that day On August 7 2005 Jennings succumbed to the cancer
    Smokers when denied access to nicotine will exhibit symptoms such as irritability jitteriness dry mouth and rapid heart beat Longer abstinence can lead to insomnia and even mild depression The onset of these symptoms is very fast nicotine's half-life being only 1 hour Withdrawal symptoms can appear even if the smoker's consumption is very limited or irregular appearing after only 4-5 cigarettes in most adolescents An ex-smoker's chemical dependence to nicotine will cease after approximately ten to twenty days although the brain's number of nicotine receptors is permanently altered and the psychological dependence may linger for months or even many years Unlike illicit recreational drugs and alcohol nicotine does not measurably alter a smoker's motor skills cognition judgment or language abilities while under the influence of the drug but nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and incapacity to concentrate can have an influence on these aspects
    What can't be measured of course is the smoker's purely behavioural dependence in the form of a belief that he "needs" to "concentrate" Some smokers may have regarded themselves as addicted because of the self-reinforcing belief even when presented with evidence that quitting smoking (and its attendant risks from health problems to the forgotten lighter) would increase their creativity or job performance This is a denial of the scientific world-view which (as Professor Klein's book shows) forces the smoker to spiritual recoveries in which he no longer has to regard himself as a pure object subject completely to scientific predictions and forces
    Theodor Adorno never a smoker wrote "human beings need to be subjects of their world not objects" Many smokers replace its effect with spiritual recovery including traditional religion AA-inspired 12 Step programs and New Age holistic therapy because purely scientific predictions objectify the smoker

    About the anti-smoking movement


    • Joint Committee on Smoking and Health Smoking and health: physician responsibility; a statement of the Joint Committee on Smoking and Health Chest 1995; 198:201- 208
    • Boffetta P., Agudo A., Ahrens W., Benhamou E., Benhamou S., Darby SC Ferro G., Fortes C., Gonzalez CA Jockel KH Krauss M., Kreienbrock L., Kreuzer M., Mendes A., Merletti F., Nyberg F., Pershagen G., Pohlabeln H., Riboli E., Schmid G., Simonato L., Tredaniel J., Whitley E., Wichmann HE Saracci R. 1998 Multicenter case-control study of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in Europe J Natl Cancer Inst 90:1440-1450
    • Osvaldo P. Almeida Gary K. Hulse David Lawrence and Leon Flicker " Smoking as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease: contrasting evidence from a systematic review of case-control and cohort studies" Addiction Volume 97, Issue 1, Page 15 - January 2002

    1. "Nicotine: A Powerful Addiction" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [1]
    2. Ness R., Grisso J., Hirschinger N., Markovic N., Shaw L., Day N., and Kline J. (1999) Cocaine and Tobacco Use and the Risk of Spontaneous Abortion New England J. Med 340:333-339; Oncken C., Kranzler H., O'Malley P., Gendreau P., Campbell W. A. (2002) The Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Fetal Heart Rate Characteristics Obstet Gynecol 99: 751-755
    3. Venners SA X. Wang C. Chen L. Wang D. Chen W. Guang A. Huang L. Ryan J. O'Connor B. Lasley J. Overstreet A. Wilcox and X. Xu. (2004) Paternal Smoking and Pregnancy Loss: A Prospective Study Using a Biomarker of Pregnancy Am J Epidemiol 159: 993-1001