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The Cigarette Smoking Tragedy

Smoking harms every part of the body – there is no organ that it does not touch. It causes many diseases. It reduces the quality and enjoyment of life and also reduces how long a smoker can expect to live.

Smoking has a devastating effect on the individual and their family and friends. And yet every day nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking; of these, nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers. That is almost 800,000 annually. It is estimated that at least 4.5 million US adolescents are cigarette smokers and approximately 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21. Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence produces significant health problems. These problems include cough and phlegm production, an increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses increased physical fitness, an unfavorable blood lipid profile and potential retardation in the rate of lung growth and the level of maximum lung function. An estimated 440,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by smoking.

It has been estimated that, in England, 364,000 patients are admitted to hospitals each year due to diseases caused by smoking. This is 7,000 hospital admissions per week, or 1,000 day. For every death caused by smoking, approximately 20 smokers are suffering from a smoking related disease. In 1997/98, cigarette smoking caused an estimated 480,000 patients to consult their Medical Practitioner for heart disease, 20,000 for stroke and nearly 600,000 for chronic obstructive lung disease.

Half of all teenagers who are currently smoking will die from diseases caused by cigarette smoke – if they continue to smoke. One quarter will die before 70 years of age, losing on average 21 years of life. It is estimated that between 1950 and 2000 six million Britons, 60 million people worldwide, died from tobacco-related diseases. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely as a result of smoking – half of these in middle age. Most die from one of the three main diseases associated with cigarette smoking: lung cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease (bronchitis and emphysema) and coronary heart disease.

In the UK deaths caused by smoking are five times higher than the 22,833 deaths arising from: traffic accidents (3,439); poisoning and overdose (881); alcoholic liver disease (5,121); other accidental deaths (8,579); murder and manslaughter (513); suicide (4,066); and HIV infection (234). World-wide, almost 5 million die prematurely each year as a result of smoking.

Smokers also face a higher risk than non-smokers of developing many medical conditions which may not be fatal but which may cause years of debilitating illness or other problems. These conditions include the following:

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (gum disease)

Angina (20 x risk)

Back pain

Buerger's Disease (severe circulatory disease)

Cataract (2 x risk)

Cataract, posterior subcapsular (3 x risk)

Colon Polyps

Crohn's Disease (chronic inflamed bowel)

Depression

Diabetes (Type 2, non-insulin dependent)

Duodenal ulcer

Hearing loss

Impotence (2 x risk)

Influenza

Ligament injuries

Macular degeneration (eyes, 2 x risk)

Muscle injuries

Neck pain

Nystagmus (abnormal eye movements)

Ocular Histoplasmosis (fungal eye infection)

Optic Neuropathy (loss of vision, 16 x risk)

Osteoarthritis

Osteoporosis (in both sexes)

Penis (Erectile dysfunction)

Peripheral vascular disease

Pneumonia

Psoriasis (2 x risk)

Rheumatoid arthritis (for heavy smokers)

Skin wrinkling (2 x risk)

Stomach ulcer

Tendon injuries

Tobacco Amblyopia (loss of vision)

Tooth loss

Tuberculosis

This means that the smoker has circulation, hearing, vision, joint, muscle, sexual, digestion, lung, skin and other problems – not a pleasing picture. This list does not include the various cancers that smoker are prone to – cancers such as mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, stomach and leukaemia. Nor does the list include the fact that the circulation problems can lead to gangrene (death of the tissues) which necessitates amputations. There are also functions that are impaired in smokers. These include:

Ejaculation (volume reduced)

Fertility (30% lower in women)

Immune System (impaired)

Menopause (onset 1.74 years early on average)

Sperm count reduced

Sperm less able to penetrate the ovum

Sperm motility impaired

Sperm shape abnormalities increased

The life of a smoker is not an easy one. The suffering and illness caused by the smoking is severe. The only way to ensure that you don't have this pain and suffering is not to smoke. If you currently smoke than you need to quit. Quitting is not easy -however you do not have to do undertake the quitting process alone – you can have guidance, support and assistance.

References

Cigarette smoking-attributable morbidity – United States, 2000. MMWR Weekly Report, 5 Sep. 2003.

Cigarettes: what the warning label doesn't tell you. American Council on Science & Health, 1997.

Mortality statistics 2002., Office for National Statistics, 2002; General Register Office for Scotland, 2002; Registrar General Northern Ireland, Annual Report, Statistics & Research Agency, 2002.

Nicotine Addiction in Britain. A report of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians. RCP, 2000 (for percentage of smoking-related deaths).

Mortality statistics 2002., Office for National Statistics, 2002; General Register Office for Scotland, 2002; Registrar General Northern Ireland, Annual Report, Statistics & Research Agency, 2002.

Peto R. Mortality in relation to smoking: 40 years' observations on male British doctors. BMJ 1994; 309: 901-911.

The World Health Report 2003. World Health Organization, 2003.

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