What happens to my body as I inhale cigarette smoke?
When you inhale cigarette smoke, your lungs are punished with tar and many gases, including carbon monoxide. Nicotine, found in tobacco, affects your central nervous system as a stimulant. Once nicotine is taken into the body, blood sugar rises slightly, giving you increased energy that will soon subside and leave you fatigued and perhaps depressed, fueling the craving for more nicotine. As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine tightens blood vessels and restricts blood flow, causing permanent damage to arteries in the long run. Because both male and female orgasms depend on blood flow, nicotine can affect your sex life.
It only takes seconds for nicotine to reach the brain, but its effects can last for an entire day. Unfortunately, corticosterone, the stress hormone, reduces nicotine’s effectiveness. This means that if you’re stressed you will use more nicotine to feel an impact. As you can imagine, the more you smoke, the higher your tolerance for nicotine, and the more dependent you become on the drug. When forced to go for a long period without smoking you will probably feel irritated and more aggressive. In addition, whether you notice or not, your cognitive functioning will most likely be impaired.
What are the short-term and long-term health risks of smoking?
- Stained nails and teeth
- Bad breath
- Wrinkled, aged skin
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Earlier menopause in women
Why should I quit smoking?
Tobacco is the number one cause of deaths every year (over 400,000). If you don’t quit now, you’ll have to quit sometime in the near future to avoid serious health complications. Sooner is certainly better than later, not just for your health, but also for your wallet. Fighting nicotine cravings may seem an insurmountable task, but just think about the health benefits your body receives from breathing continuous fresh air. Even after just two days of no smoking, nerve endings start regenerating and your sense of taste is enhanced, letting you enjoy food more. Do your reasons for smoking justify endangering your body? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three-fourths of young adults who smoke or chew tobacco daily do it because they can’t quit.
By quitting, you reduce your risk of cancer, emphysema, and heart disease; your blood pressure might be lowered; your immune system will become stronger; your lung capacity will increase; and you'll have greater physical strength and endurance. Everyone around you will see physical improvement as you enjoy whiter teeth, clearer skin, fresher breath, and brighter eyes.
How can I help my friend quit?
First it is important to understand that smoking is an issue of addiction and not of will power. In order to quit successfully, smokers need friends and family to support them. You may reduce the psychological stress of quitting by pretending your friend is just “practicing” quitting, and reward her frequently with candy and other favors. This approach will also help prevent you from getting angry or annoyed if you catch your friend with a cigarette, which is unfortunately probable. In fact, most people make at least three attempts to quit before succeeding.
Offer to join your friend in an exercise program, which will increase self-esteem and offset possible weight gain. Help your friend avoid restaurants, bars, and other places that encourage smoking. These social places don’t just encourage smoking by the presence of other smokers, but by reminders of the individual himself smoking at those sites. Remember that smokers who are in the process of quitting often become irritable—do not take this behavior personally. Supportive friends must remain calm and patient to help the smoker overcome the stress and trauma of withdrawal.
What withdrawal symptoms should I expect when quitting?
Physical withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and respiratory pain and congestion (as the lungs clear out). Emotionally, you may be irritable and anxious, and suffer from mood swings and depression. Many people smoke because they believe it will help them lose weight; nicotine suppresses the appetite and causes the liver to release glycogen, which raises the blood sugar level slightly. Without the stimulating effects of nicotine, you are likely to feel hungry more often and have a slower metabolism. Additionally, you will begin to enjoy food more as your sense of taste returns. People trying to quit smoking often need a replacement for the oral pleasure of smoking, so think of low calorie items that can keep your mouth busy, such as gum, hard candy, or raw vegetable sticks.
Cigars aren’t as unhealthy as cigarettes, right?
Because smoke from cigars and cigarettes contains the same harmful toxins and carcinogens, the differences in health risks are related to the differences in daily use and level of inhalation. Although cigars are generally bigger than cigarettes, containing more tobacco, the majority of cigar smokers only smoke occasionally and do not inhale. However, even those who do not inhale have an increased risk for mouth cancer.
Technically, the difference between a cigarette and a cigar is based on the outside covering. Cigars are rolls of tobacco covered in a tobacco leaf or substance containing tobacco, while cigarettes are rolls of tobacco wrapped in paper or some other tobacco-free substance. Cigars are generally bigger, sometimes containing as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. The tobacco leaves used to make cigars are aged and fermented, which causes cigar tobacco to have a different taste and smell than cigarette tobacco.
Someone who smokes the occasional cigar without inhaling may not suffer the health risks associated with smoking a pack of cigarettes everyday, but second-hand smoke from a cigar is more dangerous than that of a cigarette. Because cigars have more tobacco, and burn longer than cigarettes, they give off more environmental tobacco smoke. Additionally, cigar smoke contains higher concentrations of the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.
Is smokeless tobacco a safe alternative to cigarettes?
No, smokeless tobacco pollutes your body with numerous chemicals that cause health problems from gum recession to oral cancer. Tobacco in any form causes cancer and contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. People who use smokeless tobacco are several times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not use tobacco.
There are two types of spit tobacco: chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco comes in loose leaf, plugs, or twists, while snuff is generally powdered tobacco, sold dry or moist (typically in cans). People who chew keep tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous high from the nicotine. Snuff is “dipped,” meaning a small amount is pinched from the can and placed between the cheek and the gum. Nicotine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth, resulting in a quick high.
Toxic chemicals in smokeless tobacco, including arsenic and formaldehyde, contribute to cancer of the mouth, leukoplakia (white, leathery patch inside the mouth where skin has been irritated by tobacco juice), heart disease, gum disease, and tooth decay. Spit tobacco permanently discolors teeth, and as the gums recede, teeth will fall out.