Smoking is an unhealthy habit and lifestyle practiced by most people and it is the biggest preventable cause of cancer; years of medical research have proven this and have explained the links between smoking and this dangerous disease.
Smoking is responsible for one in four deaths in the United Kingdom and it is responsible for a fifth of all cancer cases; it is the main cause of lung cancer but the good news is that these deaths and this deadly disease and biggest killer of mankind can be prevented by giving up smoking.
Smoking causes so many diseases apart from cancer; but we will be looking at cancer in this article, smoking causes at least 14 types of cancers including heart and lung diseases. Smoking is responsible for 4 in 5 cases of lung cancer which has the lowest survival rate of all cancers and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths.
Other cancers caused by smoking include cancers of the mouth, pharynx, nose, sinuses, larynx, esophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bowel, ovary, bladder, cervix, breast cancer and some types of leukemia.
There is no such thing as a “safe way to use tobacco”; no matter the type of cigarette smoked, it still increases the risk of cancer, even light or social smoking can harm the body.
Filters and low tar cigarettes only make a little difference; it does not reduce the risk of lung cancer compared to those who smoke average cigarettes. This may be due to the fact that smokers tend to change the way they smoke so that they can satisfy their nicotine craving; some take bigger puffs or smoke more cigarettes.
The more cigarettes a person smoke a day increases the risk of cancer; the best way to quit smoking is to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked a day. The number of years spent smoking also increases the risk of cancer more strongly than the number of cigarettes smoked a day; example smoking 4 packs a day for 40 years is even more dangerous than smoking 2 packs a day for 20 years.
You cannot cancel or prevent the damaging side effects of smoking by other healthy lifestyle like eating healthy or by regular exercise; the best way to reduce or avoid the risk of smoking is to stop smoking completely.
Table of Contents
- What’s in a cigarette?
- How long does it take for smoking to cause cancer?
- How smoking causes cancer?
- Why is it difficult to quit smoking?
- How to quit smoking naturally?
- Other ways to quit smoking
- Does tobacco smoke affect non-smokers?
- What are the health benefits of quitting smoking?
- Other harmful tobacco products
- Other diseases caused by a cigarette
What’s in a cigarette?
What harmful chemicals are in a cigarette that makes it harmful to the health? There are more than 7,000 chemicals in a cigarette or tobacco smoke and at least 250 of them are known to be harmful and they include hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia; out of these 250 harmful chemicals, 69 of them are known to be carcinogenic (meaning that they can cause cancer) and they include the following: Acetaldehyde, aromatic amines, arsenic, benzene, beryllium, 1, 3-butadiene, cadmium, chromium, cumene, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, nickel, polonium – 210, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tobacco specific nitrosamines, and vinyl chloride.
These chemicals in the smoke are both harmful to smokers and non-smokers; breathing even a little quantity of tobacco smoke is harmful.
How long does it take for smoking to cause cancer?
It usually takes many years or decades for a smoker to get cancer; this is because it takes years for the DNA to become completely damaged because the body will still fight the process. The body is also designed to deal and still function with a bit of damage but it cannot handle or cope with large number of harmful chemicals in the tobacco smoke.
A single cigarette can damage the DNA in many cells of the lungs but it is the accumulation of this damage in the same cell over time that leads to cancer. Also research has shown that for every 15 cigarettes smoked, there is a change in DNA that can cause a cell to become cancerous.
How smoking causes cancer?
The main way smoking causes cancer is by damaging the DNA; it also damages key genes of the immune system that that protects the body against cancer; the many chemicals (like benzene, poplonium-210, benzo(a)pyrene and nitrosamines) found in cigarettes are what damages the DNA.
The chromium in cigarettes makes these poisons stick more strongly to the DNA and it increases the chances of serious damage. Cigarettes also contains arsenic and nickel which interfere and disrupts the pathways that repairs damaged DNA and this is why damaged cells turn into cancerous cells.
Smokers cannot handle toxic chemicals like those with healthy lungs and blood; the chemicals in these cigarettes make it harder for smokers to remove or neutralize toxins and this weakens or suppresses the immune system thereby making the immune system less effective.
Smoking and lung cancer
This is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world; it claims more lives yearly than cancers of the colon, breast, ovaries and prostate combined and it occurs in both men and women.
The lungs are two important spongy organs located in the chest that helps in taking in oxygen when we breathe in and release carbon dioxide when we breathe out; lung cancer begins in the lungs, it affects the functions of the lung and this can lead to death.
Smokers have the highest risk of lung cancer and the risk depends on the length of time and number of cigarettes smoked; lung cancers also happen in people exposed to second hand smoke.
This deadly disease shows no symptoms in its initial stage but shows signs and symptoms when the disease has advanced and some of the signs may include a persistent cough that does not go away, coughing up blood, even if it is a small amount, chest pain, shortness of breath, hoarseness, losing weight without trying, headache and bone pain.
Health experts believe that smoking causes lung cancer by damaging the cells that line the lungs; when cigarette smoke is inhaled; it causes changes in the tissues of the lungs almost immediately.
At first your body can repair this damage but each repeated exposure makes the damages to accumulate and this increasingly damage the normal cells that line the lungs; these accumulated damages will cause the cells of the lungs to act abnormally and this will eventually lead to cancer.
Lung cancer is divided into two types based on the appearance of lung cancer cells under the microscope and treatment depends on the type of lung cancer a person has. There are two common types of lung cancer and they include small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
Small cell lung cancer occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers and it is less common than the other type while non-small cell lung cancer is a mane for several types of lung cancers that behave in a similar way and they include large cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to smoke, quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke. Exposure to radon gas and other harmful carcinogens can also cause this. Lung cancer can lead to complications like pain, pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), coughing up blood, shortness of breath and cancers that spreads to other part of the body like bones and brain.
Why is it difficult to quit smoking?
It is very difficult to quit smoking because smoking is highly addictive; its primary drug or active ingredient is nicotine and it is responsible for a person’s addiction to cigarettes and other tobacco products.
This addiction is similar to the ones caused by heroin and cocaine and the tobacco industry manufacture cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
The amount of nicotine the body gets depends on the design of the product, the nicotine content and the way a person smokes a tobacco product; nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth and the lungs and when in the body it goes straight to the brain in a matter of seconds.
The amount of nicotine absorbed by the body will increase by taking more frequent and deeper puffs of tobacco smoke.
How to quit smoking naturally?
As the negative health impact of this bad habit is known, we will be looking at effective natural ways to quit smoking; there are many pharmaceutical aids and remedies but they are quite expensive and this affects those living on a budget. So, we will be looking at common things found in the home that can effectively combat nicotine cravings and help one overcome smoking.
The best way to do this is to detoxify your body; this is the first step in overcoming your addictions and the symptoms of withdrawal, nicotine is a toxin and if it still presents in your body it will be difficult to overcome this act.
The first thing to do is to detoxify your body so that nicotine will be expelled and once it is out of your body, you will not experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms.
Water: Water helps to flush toxins out of the body; nicotine is a toxin that accumulates in the body, it is hard to get rid of and this is what causes cravings for cigarettes. Water is a natural detoxifier that purges the system better than anything; it is needed by the body to counteract many of the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine. Water helps your body heals and it helps people recover from smoking while they are trying to quit.
When a smoker quits smoking; the body starts to heal on its own but the body needs enough water to detoxify itself, so taking enough water every day will give the detoxification process an extra boost and speeds up the process, it will also fight addictions and cravings.
Take more than 8 glasses of water every day; take more herbal teas, homemade fruit juices, smoothies and alkaline water.
Cayenne pepper: This wonderful spice helps in desensitizing the respiratory system to all addictive substances; it reduces the urge to smoke and it strengthens the immune system.
St. John’s Wort: This herb lessens the urge to smoke and it has an effective anti-depressive potential and it is often recommended to those who are trying to quit smoking.
Co-Enzyme Q-10: This enzyme is present in fermented foods and it is a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer and other chronic diseases; it reduces cravings for nicotine and repairs the damages in the lungs caused by smoking.
Ginger: When one tries to quit smoking; the person experiences nausea and other withdrawal symptoms, ginger will help one overcome these withdrawal symptoms and empower the immune system to clean the body and heal it, it is also a powerful herb that can detoxify the body and fight the development of cancer and other chronic diseases. You can take ginger tablets or ginger tea and you can generously add it to your meals.
Massage: Massaging your ears or hands or both when you have cravings can help overcome the cravings and urge to smoke. It calms the mind, lowers anxiety, improves mood and leads to fewer withdrawal symptoms. A two minutes massage on these two microsystems can make one feel at ease.
Essential oils: Withdrawal syndrome always comes with a restless feeling that you are missing something and this can be changed or suppressed by using essential oils for aromatherapy, it clams your mind, relieves jitters and keeps the mind clear.
Essential oils good for this are lavender, ylang-ylang, clary sage, orange, rose, sweet marjoram, bergamot, valerian, vetiver, cedar wood, roman chamomile and valor; these essential oils also relieves stress and helps you sleep.
Black pepper and angelica essential oils reduce nicotine cravings when inhaled and black pepper essential oil also produces a response in the respiratory tract that is similar to smoking and it keeps cravings away.
Vitamins: Eating foods rich in vitamin A, C and E will boost the immune system; they have powerful healing effects and they do an excellent job in repairing the body and expelling toxins, they combat addictions by easing withdrawal symptoms; they minimize cravings, energize the body and strengthen the individual to fight back.
Don’t use supplements unless prescribed by a doctor because if taken wrongly it can lead to toxicity which will lead to another health problem.
Green tea: This powerful tea repairs the damage done to the lungs by smoking and it also cuts the risk of lung cancer. It also helps smokers keep their hands warm when they get fidgety with their hands.
Ginseng: This powerful herb combats cravings; it is also a natural multivitamin and it empowers the immune system; you can take it as tea or you can use the powder by adding it to anything you eat.
Acupuncture: This naturopathic treatment can help smokers quit; in some cases, the effect of this treatment lasted up to five years in some cases and it makes the taste of cigarette worse.
Grape juice: Grape juice is a powerful detoxifier due to its rich content of acids; it cleans the toxins faster and rejuvenates the whole system.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: This will supply your body with powerful nutrients that will reduce dependence on nicotine and stop the cravings; it even speeds up the detoxification process and repairs the lungs. They also fight inflammation and promote healing.
Oat extract: Avena sativa also known as oat extract helps habitual smokers to significantly decrease the number of cigarettes they smoked.
Lime and lime juice: This helps to alkalize the body which is already acidic due to tobacco use; it also fights cancer and boosts the immune system.
Sweet foods: It is said that in about 30% of cases when someone craves a cigarette, what they are actually craving for is carbohydrates; taking sweet things when you have cravings can satiate this, candies and candy bars can do this trick with minimal calories.
Honey: This is an excellent home remedy that handles the withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking; it helps smokers quit with ease because of its rich nutrient content.
Exercise: According to Brown University research, regular exercises double the potential of someone to quit; aerobic exercises are good at this and it should be done five days a week and the exercises should be vigorous.
Radish: This helps the body overcome the acidity caused by tobacco use; it is usually recommended to addicts and chain smokers and it works better when combined with honey.
Don’t diet at the same time: Quitting smoking should be a focused priority and all your efforts should be placed on kicking this unhealthy habit because it is one of the most difficult habits to break.
Trying to get in shape at the same time that you are trying to quit smoking can thwart your efforts, it will affect the nutritional level of your body and this can negatively affect the immune system and its ability to fight off the addiction and damages.
Those who gain weight after quitting smoking only gain 5 to 10 pounds and this weight can easily be lost in one to two months with healthy diet and regular exercise.
Licorice: The most common way to resist the urge to smoke is chewing on a licorice stick; it curbs the urge and adds extra benefit to the digestive system by regulating it.
Other ways to quit smoking
Understand why you smoke: Give an honest answer to yourself on why you smoke and ask if it is worth it by comparing the damages that you are doing to yourself; know the emotional attachment to cigarette and deal with the root cause.
Join support groups: There is strength in numbers; getting support from other smokers is helpful. There are lots of support groups for those who are trying to quit and some hospitals have this type of resource.
Twitter quitter: The University of California, San Francisco found that twitter can be a helpful tool; it helps one get peer to peer supports and it helps them stick to their quit date and resist the urge to go back to smoking. It also makes one accountable to their social media followers.
Mobile apps: There are over 40 mobile apps that can help one quit this unhealthy habit; these apps can give you plans and structures, they can record your achievements, track your progress and even post your progress to social media. This is a great way one can be accountable, make great progress and see how far you have come.
Does tobacco smoke affect non-smokers?
Yes it sure affects; this is called second hand smoke, it is also called environmental tobacco smoking, involuntary smoking and passive smoking and it is the combination of the smoke given off by a burning tobacco product (also known as side stream smoke) and the smoke exhaled by the smoker (main stream smoke).
This second hand smoke has been classified as a known human carcinogen; it causes lung cancer in non-smoking adults, approximately 7,300 lung cancer deaths occurs annually among adults non-smokers in the United States alone and this happens as a result of exposure to second hand smoke. The U.S Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 30%.
This passive smoking also causes chronic diseases and premature deaths in children and non-smoking adults; it has immediate harmful effects on a person’s heart and blood vessels and it irritates the airways, it raises the risk of heart disease by 25%, it raises the risk of stroke by 20%, pregnant women who are exposed to second hand smoke are at increased risk of having a baby with birth defects or a baby with a small reduction in birth weight. In the United States, 34,000 deaths from heart disease each year is caused by exposure to second hand smoke.
Children who are exposed to second hand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant deaths, ear infection, cot death, bacterial meningitis, colds, pneumonia and bronchitis; it also increases the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms in children, it slows the growth of children’s lungs and can make them to cough, wheeze and feel breathless.
What are the health benefits of quitting smoking?
The body responds happily when one stops smoking and it offers immediate health benefits such as:
- Reduced heart rate reduced blood pressure which are abnormally high but comes down when smoking is stopped.
- The levels of carbondioxide in the blood begin to decline within a few hours and more oxygen is available in the body because carbon monoxide reduces the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.
- A few weeks later, people who have quit smoking have improved circulation of blood, produce less phlegm and don’t cough or wheeze as often.
- After several months of quitting, the functions of the lung are improved.
- Within a few years of quitting, people will have lower risk of cancer and chronic diseases.
Quitting smoking also has long term health benefits like reducing the risk of cancer and chronic diseases; data from the U.S National Health Interview Survey shows that people who quit smoking regardless of their age are less likely to die from smoking related diseases compared to those who continue smoking.
Smokers who quit before the age of 40 reduce their risk of premature death by 90% and those who quit between the ages of 45 to 54 reduce their risk of premature death by two-thirds.
There is also substantial gains in life expectancy in those who stop smoking when compared with those who continue to smoke; survey shows that those who quit between the ages of 25 and 34 live 10 years longer than those who don’t quit, those who quit between the ages of 35 and 44 live 9 years longer, those who quit between the ages of 45 and 54 live 6 years longer and those who quit between the ages of 55 and 64 live 4 years longer. Even smokers who quit smoking in their 60s, had a lower risk of cigarette related disease than their fellows who continued to smoke.
Even though the greatest benefits of quitting are among those who quit at an early age; it is never too late to benefit from quitting and it reduces the risk of dying from cancer and other tobacco related diseases.
The risk of premature death and dying from other chronic diseases caused by smoking depends on many factors and some of them are the age an individual started smoking, the number of years a person smoked and the number of cigarette smoked a day.
It is very important for a smoker diagnosed with cancer to stop smoking; it improves the prognosis and reduces the risk of dying by 30% to 40%.
It also helps the body to heal and respond well to therapies, it lowers the risk of pneumonia and failure of the respiratory system, it lowers the risk of the cancer re-occurring or a second cancer developing or that the individual will die from that cancer.
Other harmful tobacco products
As earlier said, all forms of tobacco are harmful and addictive; there are no safe tobacco products, there is no safe level of smoking because smoking just one cigarette per day over a lifetime can cause premature deaths and smoking related cancers like cancers of the lungs, bladder and pancreas.
Tobacco products that are harmful include cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, hookahs (water pipes), bidis and kreteks.
Smokeless tobacco: This is a type of tobacco that is not burned; it includes chewing tobacco, oral tobacco, spit or spitting tobacco, dip, chews, snus, dissolvable tobacco and snuffs. This type of tobacco causes oral cancer which includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, cheek and gum; it also causes esophageal and pancreatic cancer, gum and heart disease.
Kreteks: This is a cigarette made with a mixture of tobacco and cloves; it is associated with lung cancer and other lung diseases.
Cigars: These include premium cigarettes, little filtered cigars (LFCs) and cigarillos; these resemble cigarettes but they have added flavors to increase the appeal to youths and young adults. Most cigars are made with a single type of tobacco; they are mostly air-cured and fermented and have a tobacco leaf wrapper.
Studies have found that the smoke of cigars have more toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke even though cigar smoke is not often inhaled.
Smoking cigar causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lungs; it also causes cancer of the pancreas, heart disease and other types of lung disease.
Bidis: This is a flavored cigarette made by rolling tobacco in a dried leaf from the tendu tree; this tree is native to India and the use of bidi is associated with cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus and lungs and it is also associated with heart attacks.
Pipes: This method of tobacco smoking involves placing tobacco in a bowl that is connected to a stem with a mouthpiece at the other end; the smoke is not usually inhaled but pipe smoking causes lung cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx and esophagus.
Water pipe or hookah: A hookah is a device used to smoke a tobacco which is often heavily flavored; the smoke is made to pass through a partially filled water bowl before being inhaled by the smoker, research proves that this smoke is as toxic as a cigarette smoke and it is also addictive. Other names for hookah are argileh, ghelyoon, Hubble bubble, shisha, boory, goza and narghile.
Other diseases caused by a cigarette
Apart from cancer; there are other health conditions and complications that smoking can cause and they include:
Premature death: This is the leading cause of premature death and the death can come through cancer and other diseases; mortality rates among smokers are about three times higher than people who have never smoked.
It is estimated that tobacco smoke cause about 480,000 premature deaths yearly in the United States alone; of these premature deaths, 36% are from cancer, 39% are from heart disease and stroke and 24% are from lung disease.
Organ damage: This unhealthy act called smoking harms every organ and system of the body; it diminishes the overall health of the individual concerned, it affects the lungs, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum. It even affects the cells and the body and damages the DNA.
Chronic diseases: Smoking can cause chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm (which is a bulge like a balloon in an artery in the chest), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, osteoporosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, age related macular degeneration, cataracts and asthma. Smoking causes inflammation in the body and impairs immune functions; smokers are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, tuberculosis and other infections of the airways.
Infertility: Smoking makes women infertile and makes it difficult for them to get pregnant; women who smoke are at a high risk of miscarriage and they can also have ectopic pregnancy, the baby can also be premature or born with an abnormality like cleft lip or cleft plate or low birth weight.