Smoking is ingesting smoke from smouldering tobacco. A cigarette contains nicotine, which acts on concentration and on conscience and has a calming effect on the brains. However, smoking is harmful to health. Smoking addiction is caused by a signal from the body toward the brains that the body wants nicotine.
Due to harmful substances that are present in cigarette smoke, diseases can arise in the entire body. The most important harmful substances are tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. Tar mainly affects the lungs. It’s a mixture of various substances, which condense to form a sticky, viscous substance in the lungs. Tar contains carcinogens, which can cause lung cancer. Besides, tar causes all kinds of defects in the lungs, causing the respiratory function to deteriorate. Nicotine is an addictive drug which acts primarily on the nervous system. Carbon monoxide reduces the ability of red blood cells to absorb oxygen and carry it through the body.
Nicotine is rapidly absorbed in the blood and creates a sense of relaxation and an increased concentration within seconds. Nicotine stimulates the body in releasing adrenaline to the blood. This will suppress feelings of fatigue. Smoking has especially a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels, the heart rate increases, as well as blood pressure. The latter is due to the narrowing of small blood vessels. This can be seen, for example, from cold hands and feet. Nicotine also affects insulin management, thereby reducing appetite. These physical effects last for a few hours. In case of a high dose of nicotine, nausea and vomiting will occur.
Risks associated with smoking include:
- Cardiovascular diseases (including high blood pressure and thrombosis).
- Impaired blood circulation.
- Deteriorated endurance.
- Enhanced aging of the body (skin, connective tissue, organs).
- Deteriorated skin condition (earlier and more wrinkles and gray appearance).
- Lung cancer and other types of cancer.
- Reduced sexual potency (men).
- Menopause starts earlier (women).
- Cerebral hemorrhage, heart attack in women who use hormonal contraception (e.g. the pill).
- Reduced fertility in women.
- Complications during surgery, because a wound heals less rapidly.
There are several self-help resources that may help to quit smoking:
- Choose a convenient quit date, for example a period of low stress and a lot of distraction.
- Quit smoking in one shot, this is more successful than decreasing slowly.
- Avoid all situations in which people smoke.
- Ask the environment for assistence in quitting.
- Use nicotine patches, chewing gum or compressed lozenges when symptoms occur, which are caused by smoking cessation.