Generally, smoking is the intranasal or oral inhalation and exhalation of gaseous products of a burning substance, usually plant materials. Substances such as marijuana and hashish are incriminated when smoking is discussed, but generally, tobacco products are widely regarded when smoke or smoking is mentioned.
The three significant ways people smoke are smoking, chewing and sniffing. Tobacco is the major substance present in cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
Tobacco is a psychoactive alkaloid which produces both stimulatory and addictive effects when ingested but is addictive when ingested habitually. Smoking this day is globally practised despite medical, religious and social debates against it.
The mass production of tobacco started in the 20th century and was beginning to increase exponentially. According to Encyclopedia Britannia (1888), tobacco materials were suspected of producing many adverse health concerns. Still, it was also considered to have some medicinal properties.
Numerous scholars and health professionals of the day preached tobacco’s use for such effects as improved concentration performance, anxiety and mood enhancement.
By 21 st century, in absolute contrast, tobacco had become known as being highly addictive and one of the world’s most devastating causes of death and diseases. More so, because of the sharp increase in smoking, there is an estimated 4 million death due to tobacco per year.
By 2030, it will reach 8 million tobacco-caused deaths, the more significant percentage happening in developing nations. While tobacco use decreases in major parts of Western Europe and North America/Australia, it keeps rising in countries of Asia, Africa and South America.
Products from tobacco are manufactured with various preservatives and other additives to prolong its shelf life, manipulate the burning characteristics, control its moisture, prevent insect growth, mask some irritating nature of nicotine, and provide different aromas.
Thus, the burning of the products produces smoke from thousands of chemicals. Most of these chemicals are very toxic and have various adverse effects on smokers and those in contact with mainstream smoke and side-stream smoke.
The harmful effect of the smoke is not limited to smokers as the gas emitted is released into the environment. The ability of the compounds to spread rapidly over a large expanse in the atmosphere has failed several regulations. Initially, laws banning smoking in public spaces were enacted, but the adverse effects were still recorded in non-smokers.
The major constituents of the smoke are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nicotine and tar. However, nicotine is poisonous at high doses but not high enough in a cloud of smoke to present adverse effects other than addiction. People who often start short end up smoking in large quantities to produce adverse effects.
The carbon monoxide, which can quickly diffuse through the blood alveolar barrier in the lungs, end up in the bloodstream displacing oxygen in the haemoglobin, giving a methemoglobin product with no oxygen carrying capacity. Generally, the reaction is temporary, but consistent compound consumption often causes hypoxia or anoxia at the end arteries and tissues such as the brain, kidney, liver etc.
This, combined with other factors, results in many diseases/health concerns, which are discussed below. Cardiovascular System
Despite the oxygen starvation, although slow but progressive, which often leads to cell death, nicotine is often implicated in blood vessel wall tightening and increased blood clots. The tightening often leads to stenosis, injury to the blood vessels, and increased peripheral blood pressure. Constricted blood vessels can lead to lodging a blood clot, starving the concerned tissues/organ with blood supply. This usually leads to a stroke which often can be life-threatening. Heart attack, heart failure, hepatic insufficiency, kidney failure, liver failure, blurred vision, glaucoma, and blindness, among others, are likely health conditions associated.
Aside from immunodepression, which results in various forms of fungal and bacterial infection such as tinea pedis, nicotine alters the skin’s structural integrity, which often leads to skin cancer, especially Squamous cell carcinoma.
Hair loss (alopecia) and total baldness are often recorded as hair follicles lose their integrity. In cases where there is no hair loss, premature greying of the hair is evident.
Skin lesions indicate that the mouth, throat, larynx and oesophagus are predisposed to cancer due to smoking. A higher risk of pancreatic cancer is also recorded. Type 2 diabetes and its complications develop more in people who smoke than people who do not, which is caused by increased resistance to insulin.
The male genitalia is structured with bulbocarvanous tissue, which is highly vascularized, and tumescence (erection) is achieved by increased blood flow into the tissue through the extensive blood vessel network. Due to the effect of nicotine and smoke byproducts on blood clots and blood vessels, as discussed earlier, weak erection and low performance manifest in smoke victims.
In women, the effect of smoke byproducts on secretory cells (goblet cells) often leads to vagina tightening, reduced elasticity and dryness, which lead to painful sex and resultant low sexual performance.
The decreasing effect of smoking on sex hormones in men and women often leads to sexual dissatisfaction and low sexual desire (low libido).
The respiratory pathway is lined by mucus-secreting goblet cells, which help in air preservation and transfer, innate immune response and mechanical trapping of dirt and microbes, protecting the lining of the respiratory walls. Also, the lungs are made doughy and healthy by the presence of surfactants which aids respiration.
Smoke byproducts, especially nicotine, have been implicated in the denaturation of goblet cells, cell wall lining and surfactants, thereby leading to a dry injury/disease-prone lining and rigid sooth-covered lungs with less respiration capacity.
Emphysema (destruction of alveoli/air sacs), chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and lung cancer are very likely diseases associated with compromised respiratory integrity.
Immediate and absolute withdrawal from smoking can cause temporary congestion and respiratory unease during healing. Medical assistance is necessary during this period to avoid complications. A sign of recovery is increased moisture/mucus production.
Children with smoker parent(s) are more likely to be asthmatic and pneumonic than those whose parents are not.
Unfortunately, most of the adverse effects of smoking are not limited to smokers but also to the public who are in contact with smoke byproducts in the atmosphere. As it has been duly advertised, smokers and victims of smoke are liable to die young. Prevention is forever better and more convenient than cure.