How dangerous is smoking and how much affect smokers in The Gambia?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smoking is a deliberate way of taking health risks, suffering and losing life

The Effects of Smoking on the Body

Tobacco smoke is enormously harmful to your health. There’s no safe way to smoke. Replacing your cigarette with a cigar, pipe, or hookah won’t help you avoid the health risks associated with tobacco products.

Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. When they burn, they generate more than 7,000 chemicals, according to the American Lung Association.

Many of those chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 of them can cause cancer. Many of the same ingredients are found in cigars and in tobacco used in pipes and hookahs. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigars have a higher level of carcinogens, toxins, and tar than cigarettes.

When using a hookah pipe, you’re likely to inhale more smoke than you would from a cigarette. Hookah smoke has many toxic compounds and exposes you to more carbon monoxide than cigarettes do. Hookahs also produce more second-hand smoke.

In the United States, the mortality rate for smokers is three times that of people who never smoked, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s one of the leading causes of preventable death.

Central Nervous System

One of the ingredients in tobacco is a mood-altering drug called nicotine. Nicotine reaches your brain in mere seconds. It’s a central nervous system stimulant, so it makes you feel more energized for a little while. As that effect subsides, you feel tired and crave more. Nicotine is habit forming.

Smoking increases risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, and poor eyesight. It can also weaken your sense of taste and sense of smell, so food may become less enjoyable.

Your body has a stress hormone called corticosterone, which lowers the effects of nicotine. If you’re under a lot of stress, you’ll need more nicotine to get the same effect.

Physical withdrawal from smoking can impair your cognitive functioning and make you feel anxious, irritated, and depressed. Withdrawal can also cause headaches and sleep problems.

Respiratory System

When you inhale smoke, you’re taking in substances that can damage your lungs. Over time, your lungs lose their ability to filter harmful chemicals. Coughing can’t clear out the toxins sufficiently, so these toxins get trapped in the lungs. Smokers have a higher risk of respiratory infections, colds, and flu.

In a condition called emphysema, the air sacs in your lungs are destroyed. In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the tubes of the lungs becomes inflamed. Over time, smokers are at increased risk of developing these forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Long-term smokers are also at increased risk of lung cancer.

Withdrawal from tobacco products can cause temporary congestion and respiratory pain as your lungs begin to clear out.

Children whose parents smoke are more prone to coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks than children whose parents don’t. They also tend to have more ear infections. Children of smokers have higher rates of pneumonia and bronchitis.

Cardiovascular System

Smoking damages your entire cardiovascular system. When nicotine hits your body, it gives your blood sugar a boost. After a short time, you’re left feeling tired and craving more. Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts the flow of blood (peripheral artery disease). Smoking lowers good cholesterol levels and raises blood pressure, which can result in stretching of the arteries and a build-up of bad cholesterol (atherosclerosis). Smoking raises the risk of forming blood clots.

Blood clots and weakened blood vessels in the brain increase a smoker’s risk of stroke. Smokers who have heart bypass surgery are at increased risk of recurrent coronary heart disease. In the long term, smokers are at greater risk of blood cancer (leukaemia).

There’s a risk to non-smokers, too. Breathing second-hand smoke has an immediate effect on the cardiovascular system. Exposure to second-hand smoke increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart disease.

Skin, Hair, and Nails (Integument System)

Some of the more obvious signs of smoking involve the skin. The substances in tobacco smoke actually change the structure of your skin. Smoking causes skin discoloration, wrinkles, and premature aging. Your fingernails and the skin on your fingers may have yellow staining from holding cigarettes. Smokers usually develop yellow or brown stains on their teeth. Hair holds on to the smell of tobacco long after you put your cigarette out. It even clings to non-smokers.

Digestive System

Smokers are at great risk of developing oral problems. Tobacco use can cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) or infection (periodontitis). These problems can lead to tooth decay, tooth loss, and bad breath.

Smoking also increases risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, and oesophagus. Smokers have higher rates of kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer. Even cigar smokers who don’t inhale are at increased risk of mouth cancer.

Smoking also has an effect on insulin, making it more likely that you’ll develop insulin resistance. That puts you at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. When it comes to diabetes, smokers tend to develop complications at a faster rate than non-smokers.

Smoking also depresses appetite, so you may not be getting all the nutrients your body needs. Withdrawal from tobacco products can cause nausea.

Sexuality and Reproductive System

Restricted blood flow can affect a man’s ability to get an erection. Both men and women who smoke may have difficulty achieving orgasm and are at higher risk of infertility. Women who smoke may experience menopause at an earlier age than non-smoking women. Smoking increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.

Pregnant mothers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are also more likely to have a baby with low birth weight. Babies born to mothers who smoke while pregnant are at greater risk of low birth weight, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). New-borns who breathe second-hand smoke suffer more ear infections and asthma attacks.

Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to pick up for a person and it is even more dangerous for people with asthma or heart problems. Smoking includes products filled with tobacco and is inhaled into the lungs through a cigarette, pipe, cigar or bongs.

Smoking is a major health risk because it can cause heart attacks, long-standing lung diseases, and finally lung cancer and death and even cause birth defects of

Children born from parents who are smokers. The other forms of cancer caused by smoking are also gum, kidney, breast, throat, bladder, and stomach and bowel cancer.

Unfortunately we do not have reports about the death rate of dying of smoking here in the Gambia but according to the facts of biological and long term harming of smoking and the long term illnesses caused death of many, many Gambian every year too.

Sadly the fact is that the importing of poor quality of different kind of cigarettes in to the Gambian a very large quantity is allowed and sold for far cheaper prices than in the western countries.

This is even more encouraging for very young and younger people to afford baying them and harming their health, starting in young age in their lives. Cigarettes are available for sale in every corner and every corner shops in the country, sold without any control and any restrictions of age, even selling them in single cigarette out of the box for a few affordable dalasi in particular to very young people too.

It is so heart- breaking seen so many of young male Gambian on many public places, in particular where the most Hotels are locket, in front of corner shops and often on the beach smoking cigarettes and pretend adolescence.

More than 12 million Americans have died from smoking since the 1964 report, and another 25 million Americans alive today are expected to die of a smoking-related illness, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The death rate in the United States from smoking has reached now almost 500,000 deaths per year and some experts predict that 1/3 of Chinese men will have their lives shortened because of complications from smoking. Gambian smokers are not an exception, suffering and dying from these mentioned health risks every year too.

Who is most likely to become addicted?

Anyone who starts smoking can become addicted to nicotine. Studies show that cigarette smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teen years. The younger a person is when he or she begins to smoke, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to nicotine. Almost 90% of adult smokers first smoked at or before age 19.

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can cause addiction. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine:

Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds after taking a puff, but its effects start to wear off within a few minutes. This is what most often leads the smoker to get another cigarette. If the smoker doesn’t smoke again soon, withdrawal symptoms kick in and get worse over time

The typical smoker takes about 10 puffs from each cigarette. A person smoking a pack per day gets about 200 “hits” of nicotine each day.

When taken in small amounts, nicotine creates pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting the smoker’s mood. Nicotine works very much like other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward circuits with dopa mine (a chemical messenger). Nicotine also gives you a little bit of an adrenaline rush -- not enough to notice, but enough to speed up your heart and raise your blood pressure.

What does nicotine do?

In large doses nicotine is a poison and can kill by stopping the muscles a person uses to breathe. But smokers usually take in small amounts that the body can quickly break down and get rid of. The first dose of nicotine makes a person to feel awake and alert, while later doses make them feel calm and relaxed.

Nicotine can make new smokers, and regular smokers who get too much of it, feel dizzy or sick to their stomachs. The resting heart rate for young smokers increases 2 to 3 beats per minute. Nicotine also lowers skin temperature and reduces blood flow in the legs and feet. It may play a role in increasing smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke, but other substances in cigarette smoke likely play a bigger part.

Nicotine is what gets (and keeps) people addicted to tobacco, but other substances in tobacco cause cancer.

Why do people start smoking?

Most people begin smoking as teens. Those with friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking than those who don’t. Some teens say that they “just wanted to try it,” or they thought it was “cool” to smoke.

The tobacco industry’s ads, price breaks, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to create and market ads that show smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe. More than one-third of the movies that show cigarettes are youth-rated films. And studies show that young people who see smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking.

TV ads for smoking have been banned for many years, but films that show tobacco brands are much more likely to include smoking scenes as part of their TV trailers. This is also another fact of watching these movies in the Gambia too.

Is smoking common among young people in the Gambia?

I am afraid I must answer this question certainly and surely Yes. Research has found that even smoking as few as 1 to 4 cigarettes a day can lead to serious health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease and a greater chance of dying at a younger age

Smoking firsthand is not the only danger. Second-hand smoke has also led to the aforementioned conditions of people who do not smoke but are in the company of those who do smoke.

The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke have forced many countries, cities and even states worldwide to create public smoking bans. Many bans have made it illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, casinos and arenas and offices. I am certainly thankful to Gambian Authorities for created the same regulation in the Gambia too.

Smoking is extremely prominent in films and literature. The most famous movie star smoker was Humphrey Bogart and the most famous literature character smoker was Sherlock Holmes.

There are a variety of ways for smokers to quit their bad habit. Tobacco and nicotine are extremely addicting drugs that can be difficult to pull away from. Some ways of quitting smoking are using nicotine replacement therapies which include gum and the patch, hypnosis, quitting ‘cold turkey’ and acupuncture.

Is there a safe way to smoke cigarettes?

Smokers have been led to believe that “light” cigarettes are a lower health risk and are a good option to quitting. This is not true. Studies have not found that the risk of lung cancer is any lower in smokers of “light” or low-tar cigarettes.

Hand-rolled cigarettes are thought by some people to be a cheaper and healthier way to smoke, but they are not safer than commercial brands. In fact, life-long smokers of hand-rolled cigarettes have been found to have a higher risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box), oesophagus (swallowing tube), mouth, and preventive though herbal cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they give off tar and carbon monoxide and are dangerous to your health. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as a safe smokescreen (throat) when compared with smokers of machine-made cigarettes.

Some cigarettes are now being sold as “all natural”. They are marketed as having no chemicals or additives and rolled with 100% cotton filters. There is no proof they are healthier or safer than other cigarettes, nor is there good reason to think they would be. Smoke from these cigarettes, like the smoke from all cigarettes, contains many agents that cause cancer (carcinogens) and toxins that come from the tobacco itself, including tar and carbon monoxide.

For further information and advice text only Dr Azadeh on 002207774469 /3774469, between 4-6 pm only working days and THE FRANCIS DeGAULLE NJIE FOUNDATION (FDNF) on 8903104/3903104.email azadehhassanmd10@gmail.com

Author: Dr Azadeh Senior Lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Senior Physician and Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.

Source: Picture: Dr Azadeh