A lethal kiss
The strong medical evidence relating tobacco smoke to very serious health problems is difficult to ignore. Today, smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada. The detrimental health impacts are observed by all ages from unborn babies to seniors. Tobacco is responsible for the death of more than five million people worldwide every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that, if current trends continue, more than eight million people will die from tobacco use per year by 2030 and one billion people in the entire 21st century.
Research has clearly demonstrated that people with repeated exposure to tobacco smoke are most likely to develop and die from heart problems, lung cancer and respiratory difficulties. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, including the heavy metals cadmium and arsenic (please refer to Heavy Metals for more information). More than 50 of these chemicals are known carcinogens. In Canada, lung cancer is the leading cause of death with tobacco smoke accounting for 85% of all new cases. Smoking can lead to genetic alterations in lung cells. Respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, wheezing and labored breathing are just some of the early changes that can result. Asthmatic bronchitis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases that can be attributed to the chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
Digestive and other respiratory cancers, specifically mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach and pancreatic have been correlated with smoking tobacco. There is also an increased risk of developing leukemia, bladder and kidney cancer. Females especially, should be concerned about the higher risk of cervical cancer.
Smoking inhibits the flow of blood throughout the body resulting in the blockage of arteries and injuries to blood vessels of the heart, brain and extremities. Cardiovascular disease, angina, coronary heart disease and heart attacks can also be caused by smoking. Peripheral vascular disease (blockages in the circulation to the legs) and impotence can occur. Cerebrovascular disease including the risk of stroke is 50% higher in smokers. This risk is greatly elevated by the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Interestingly, the risk of stroke is reduced by about 50% within one year of smoking cessation and can return to the same level as those who have never smoked within five years.
Surprisingly, second hand smoke can lead to just as many health concerns. According to the WHO, it is responsible for about 600,000 deaths per year and about 1% of the global burden of disease worldwide. As children breathe faster than adults and require twice the amount of oxygen, they are especially vulnerable to environmental tobacco smoke. Toxins ingested circulate twice as fast in their bodies. The blood brain barrier that prevents harmful substances from entering the brain is not as developed, allowing easier accessibility for many drugs and toxins. Children are therefore more likely to develop ear infections, throat irritations and excessive coughing; their chances of developing asthma increases by 200 to 400 percent. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of smoking extend well beyond the individual smoker.
Virtually every organ in the body is negatively affected by tobacco. The strong evidence correlating smoke to the development of disease should be advertised and considered by all ages of the population. At Nature Medicine, we believe that the adverse effects of smoking can directly impact your health and your therapeutic treatments. We recommend that you should reduce smoking, work towards quitting smoking and avoid environments where you are exposed to smoke.
- Health Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/_ctums- esutc_2000/yanosc-vesfcc-eng.php
- World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/gho/phe/secondhand_smoke/en/
Canadian Cancer Society:
One Step at a Time: for smokers who don’t want to quit
One Step at a Time: for smokers who want to quit