Second in a three-part series on smoking
If you smoke, you owe it to yourself to quit. And I believe you have an obligation to try to help others to quit. I’m doing my part by offering this unusual series of columns. No scolding or exaggerated scare tactics. I’m giving you just the facts in a chain of bulletins.
You can stick these columns on bulletin boards and refrigerators. I recommend giving them to a smoker you love.
Here are more: Cigarette smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, including more than 60 known to cause cancer. Some of the chemicals cause heart and lung diseases. Included in the list of chemicals are cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, acetylene, ammonia, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.
Any amount of smoke is dangerous. Even smoking as few as one to four cigarettes a day can increase the risk of dying sooner.
Smoking cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine provides no clear health benefit.
Smokers who buy these cigarettes often inhale more deeply, inhale more often and smoke them down to their fingers to compensate for the lower tar and nicotine.
Menthol cigarettes are more dangerous than other types because they diminish the cough reflex and mask a dry throat. This enables smokers to inhale these cigarettes deeper and more often, too. People who smoke menthol cigarettes are less successful quitting.
Hand-rolled cigarettes are not safer than commercial brands.
Cigarettes billed as “all natural” have not been proven to be safer than any other cigarettes.
Herbal cigarettes produce tar and carbon monoxide and are dangerous to your health.
Clove cigarettes, also called “kreteks,” contain about 65 percent tobacco and about 35 percent ground cloves, clove oil and other additives. They are a tobacco product with the same health risks as regular cigarettes. “Bidis” are hand-rolled, flavored cigarettes imported mainly from India.
Bidis appear to have all of the same health risks of conventional cigarettes.
Nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco, constricts arteries and plays an important role in increasing smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke. However, other ingredients in tobacco cause cancers.
Anyone who starts smoking is at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine.
With regular use of tobacco – smoked or chewed – nicotine accumulates in the body. Daily consumers are exposed to nicotine effects 24/7.
Nicotine, like cocaine, increases the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain pathways that control reward and pleasure.
Smoking cigars and pipes causes cancers of the lung, oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat), larynx (voice box) and esophagus. Pipe and cigar smokers, who often don’t inhale, are still breathing the second-hand smoke that surrounds them.
Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the gums, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus. People who dip or chew smokeless tobacco get about the same amount of nicotine as regular smokers.
Hookah smoking involves burning flavored tobacco in a water pipe and inhaling the smoke through a long hose. Hookah smoke contains varying amounts of nicotine, carbon monoxide and other hazardous substances. Several types of cancer have been linked to hookah smoking.
When smoke contacts live cells, it hurts them. There is no safe way to use tobacco.
[In the last part of this series, I’ll give you some statistics and information about quitting.]
Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.