There is always a ring of truth to the adage “Smokers don’t grow old – they die young”. According to the World Health Organization, seven people die every day due to smoking tobacco. Tobacco, which contains over 400 toxic substances, can cause countless health problems including respiratory ailments.
The most hazardous components found in cigarettes are tar which is a carcinogen, nicotine which is the addictive substance that increases cholesterol, and carbon monoxide which decreases oxygen levels and damages the blood vessels. Below are some of the respiratory problems caused by smoking that should finally convince you to kick this bad habit for good.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a collective term for health problems that are characterized by blocked airflow and difficulty in breathing. Smoking is the cause of almost all of COPD cases around the world. That’s because when you smoke, your lungs decline 3 times faster than non-smokers. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema fall under this respiratory problem category.
Chronic Bronchitis refers to the chronic condition of having inflamed bronchial tubes or airways in the lungs. It is also described as a persistent cough that produces phlegm and mucus for at least three months each year for two consecutive years.
Emphysema occurs when the alveoli or air sacs in the lungs have been damaged. This long-term, progressive lung disease causes shortness of breath after the alveoli become over-inflated after years of smoking. It is described as an obstructive lung disease since the over-inflated alveoli does not allow easy inhalation and exhalation.
Lung cancer is a form of cancer that occurs when there is an uncontrolled cell growth in the lung tissues. The growth of these cells can lead to metastasis. This means that the adjacent tissues located beyond the lungs will be invaded and infiltrated. The common type of lung cancer is carcinoma, which is from the epithelial cells. Around the world, around 1.3 million people die yearly because of this cancer. Symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood, weight loss and difficulty in breathing.
Other Diseases Caused by Smoking
The respiratory system is not the only part of the body affected by the harmful chemicals of tobacco. Smoking can also damage other bodily organs including kidneys, liver, heart and many more. In fact, lung cancer is not the only type of cancer brought about by smoking habit. Cancer of the throat, gullet, mouth, bladder, pancreas, esophagus, cervix and kidneys are also prevalent due to smoking.
Apart from these, smoking can also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 80 percent. These are diseases of the heart and the blood vessels (including the arteries and veins). Heart diseases are in fact some of the worst killers in the history of medicine. These diseases occur because nicotine shoots up the cholesterol levels in the arteries, making them rigid and narrow. This in turn creates blood clots that bring about cardiovascular diseases like peripheral coronary thrombosis, coronary heart diseases, vascular disease, cerebral thrombosis and cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke.