Smoking is widespread across the world and the health problems associated with it are probably the best documented of all the addictions. There are nearly 1 billion people who smoke globally and two thirds of these start smoking before the age of 18. Smoking is a difficult behaviour to stop and is responsible for killing some 6 million people a year.
Recent changes in legislation in Western countries, where the places such as bars and offices where you can smoke have been greatly limited, has helped reduce uptake and cut down the effects of passive smoking. The rise of replacement therapies, particularly e-cigarettes have also had an effect. In areas like Great Britain, smoking has actually halved since the 1970s but rates still remain higher among poorer individuals.
The 4,000 different chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke mean that there are various well researched health problems that can be caused by this behaviour. Long term use of cigarettes increases your risk of a heart attack, contracting cancer, suffering from lung problems and a whole range of other complaints.
The prospect of developing health problems such as cardiovascular disease increases by 2 to 4 times if you smoke. Even if you only have five cigarettes a day, you are more likely to develop a problem and be at greater risk of having a life changing episode such as a heart attack. Smoking can cause damage to your arteries, narrowing blood flow and increasing the possibility of clots that are a cause of stroke.
Because smoke is inhaled directly into the lungs it can cause huge health problems in this area. Not only can conditions such as bronchitis and emphysema develop, causing breathing problems, most forms of lung cancer are caused by smoking. People who suffer from a pre-existing condition such as asthma will undoubtedly suffer from additional problems if they smoke.
The development of cancers related to smoking addiction is well documented. While we most notably associate this with the lungs, smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere including the larynx and oesophagus, liver, pancreas and stomach. It’s thought that 1 in 3 cases of cancer are due to people smoking. Evidence suggests that if no one smoked then it would have a significant impact on cancer rates across the world.
Smoking During Pregnancy
Along with the health problems caused in relation to cancer, there are also significant risks for babies when mothers smoke during pregnancy. This can include low birth weight, early delivery, sudden death infant syndrome and orofacial clefts in children. Women are advised not to smoke during pregnancy but 10% of those who smoked admitted doing so in the 3 months prior to their due date.
Other Health Problems
There are plenty of other issues that come from a smoking addiction. These include damaging the teeth and gums and effecting general bone health (particularly in women). Smoking can cause some Type 2 Diabetes and also make it more difficult to control the condition once diagnosed. It can also contribute to the development of eye problems such as cataracts and age related macular degeneration.
The good news about smoking is that quitting can quickly reverse the negative aspects of the addiction. For instance, just a year after stopping smoking, health problems associated with the heart and cardiovascular system drop off quite dramatically. Risk of getting cancers in the mouth and throat fall by half within five years and after ten years your potential for contracting all types of cancers drops by half as well.