The Health Risks of Cigarette Smoking – Part I

Copyright 2006 Adam Waxler

Many people take risks in life. In fact, some of the wealthiest people in the world will tell you they would have never gotten anywhere if they did not take any risks. However, while some risks are worth the chance some simply are not. The health risks of cigarette smoking is one of those risks because the end result of smoking cigarettes is almost always the same.

So what are the harmful effects of cigarette smoking?

There are many harmful chemicals in cigarettes that can be broken down into four main components: irritants, nicotine, carbon monoxide, and carcinogens. When considering the health risks of cigarettes smoking, it is important to look at each of these four components.

1. Irritants
An average cigarette contains irritants like ammonia, formaldehyde and oxides. Such irritants usually cause the respiratory tract to swell.

2. Carcinogen
There are roughly 40 kinds of chemicals in cigarettes that are considered carcinogenic, meaning cancer promoting.

Lung cancer is usually related to cigarette smoking because the respiratory system of a smoker is more vulnerable. The mortality rate of lung cancer cases is very high and found to be dependent on the number of cigarette consumed.

3. Carbon Monoxide
The carbon monoxide component of a cigarette harms the circulatory system. This disables the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the heart.

4. Nicotine
Nicotine is the major component of the cigarette and it also poses a notorious threat to the body. Nicotine causes the act of smoking to be highly addicting. Nicotine in the body system could also result in an increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

The four harmful components of the cigarette mentioned above all contribute to the negative effects cigarette smoking has on the human body. The immediate effects of cigarette smoking may be manifested by coughing, burning of the nose and throat or dizziness. There is also the tendency of increasing the health risks of a person already suffering from illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.

While there are claims that cigarette smoking may not directly cause the increase in high blood pressure, cigarette smoking does increase the risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack. Most doctors agree that cigarette smoking results in the body being susceptible to cardiovascular or heart diseases.

Peripheral vascular disease is also widespread among cigarette smokers. This pertains to the disease affecting the lower limbs of the person. This is due to the atherosclerosis or the narrowing of the arteries in the blood vessels of the limb. The narrowing is caused by the building up of plaque.

Studies also show that cigarette smoking is particularly risky to the female body. A woman cigarette smoker may have a more difficult time getting pregnant as a consequence of cigarette smoking. A pregnant woman who smokes cigarettes will definitely harm the baby inside her womb. Studies reveal that cigarette smoking actually increases the probability for the incidence of having a low birth weight, stillbirths, and sudden infant death syndrome. The mother also is in danger as cigarette smoking will increase the risk of having a high blood pressure or suffering a stroke.

Another health risk to cigarette smoking is passive smoking from secondhand smoke.

Passive smoking is the involuntary exposure to cigarette smoke. In this case, even a non-smoker’s health is put at risk. Breathing in fumes from another person’s cigarette (secondhand smoke) may cause the same adverse effects as it does to an ordinary smoker.

Recent studies show that those exposed to secondhand smoke, children and adults alike, have a higher risk of developing lung and other respiratory problems. Children who are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke are susceptible to colds, ear infections and breathing problems.

There are risks in life that are worth taking. However, one must recognize those risks that may cost one his or her life and clearly, one life-threatening risk includes cigarette smoking.


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