Smoking cigarettes or really any tobacco product is strongly linked to several diseases, many of which are potentially deadly. There is a definite association between lung cancer and smoking, but the lungs are not the only part of the body affected by tobacco smoke. In fact, smoking can be said to have a systemic effect.
Disease and smoking
Smoke is inhaled through the lungs, and the lungs are easily damaged by cigarette smoke. Lung cancer is one disease that smoking can cause. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema are also common effects of smoking. These diseases are caused by smoke damaging the cells in the lungs, the alveoli and the cilia that help force pollutants, mucus, and so forth out of the lungs.
Cardiovascular diseases are also caused by cigarette smoke. These diseases include peripheral vascular disease, aneurysm and coronary heart disease. The latter is the number one cause of the death in the United States, as of 2012, though it is not always caused by smoking.
Despite the oft-cited correlation, lung cancer is not the only form of cancer you can get from smoking. Oral cancers and throat cancers can occur due to smoking. Even smokeless tobacco use can cause oral cancer. Several organs and organ parts are at risk as well, such as the liver, kidneys, cervix and stomach. These organs are nowhere near the lungs, yet they are affected by smoking.
Smoking can increase the risk of developing some of these diseases by up to 23 times. For example, a man who smokes is 23 times more likely to get lung cancer than a man who does not. People who smoke are up to 13 times more likely to die from emphysema.
The causes of diseases from smoking
The reason smoking is able to cause so much disease in so many parts of the body is because tobacco itself contains dangerous substances. On top of that, additives put in during cigarette manufacturing are often unsafe. About 4,000 chemicals are created when a cigarette is burned. Of these, 45 are known to be or may be carcinogens. In other words, there are 45 deadly compounds in cigarettes.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things smokers can do to protect their health. Within hours, blood pressure returns to normal, if there are no underlying conditions. Breathing slowly improves over a matter of weeks to years. Increased risk for disease goes down or completely disappears with time.
One method of quitting smoking is known as 'cold turkey.' Cold turkey means stopping completely all at once. It is one of the most difficult ways to give up the habit, but it is successful for many.
Smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches and electronic cigarettes help smokers quit by gradually reducing their intake of nicotine. With these methods, smokers give up tobacco altogether immediately while slowly weaning themselves off the addictive substance in tobacco.