Tar Struck: Why Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous

In the tradition of Rand Corp. and other think-tanks, this special report is the most detailed, comprehensive and up-to-date study on the effects of cigarette smoke. Painstaking research from various websites, medical articles and health journals has produced the definitive resource material for the general public, medical students and future researchers in clear and precise language.

This is also the first time that the spotlight is focused on the effects of carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar, nitrogen oxides and hydrogen cyanide in the respiratory system. It also details less-known chemical such as glycols and cathecols.

Most of all, the report is scientifically objective. It avoids judgments of smokers; it just tells exactly how and why cigarette smoking is hazardous to health.

A girl turns to speak in a stop-smoking support group meeting in a Queen's Road clinic in Hong Kong. “The first time, I lasted a week,” she says. “The second, I made it through 11 days. I started 2 years ago. It seemed so cool. It made me feel sophisticated and grown-up. I really wanted to quit because I know it's bad for my health.

But it's so difficult.”

She's 14 years old.

Warnings about the hazards of smoking appear side-by-side with cigarette advertisements. “The ads are intended for teenagers because that's where the market is,” according to Dr. David Yen, president of the John Tung Foundation in Taiwan. “Study after study has shown that most smokers started as teenagers.” A recent survey from the World Health Organization disclosed that 50% of children aged 7-17 in the Philippines smoke cigarettes – a 150% increase since 1987.

Just how long does it take for cigarettes to cause harm? John A. Yacenda of the Ventura County Health Dept., a smoking withdrawal clinic in California, has a ready answer: “About three seconds.”

A cigarette goes to work the moment one inhales. It increases the heart rate by 15 to 25 beats per minute, raises blood pressure levels by 10 to 20 points, and contaminates the internal organs with carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar, nitrogen oxides, and hydrogen cyanide.

Lethal Gas

Colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide (CO) is a lethal gas, which is “The most harmful component of tobacco smoke,” according to Lars M. Ranström of the National Smoking Association in Sweden. The CO concentration in cigarette smoke has 640 times the safe level in industrial plants It also has 200 times the attraction to hemoglobin (red blood cells) than oxygen, leading to the formation of COHb (carboxyhemoglobin).

This results in to heart and circulatory diseases, emphysema, angina pectoris and chronic bronchitis.

“Carbon monoxide is the causative agent of the increased incidence of atherosclerosis,” disclosed Dr. Poul Astrup of the University of Copenhagen. CO causes edema, which enables LDL cholesterol to clog the arteries. These fatty plaques are the precursors of myocardial infarction. “Both nicotine and carbon monoxide contribute to the significant increase in heart attacks and in sudden death from coronary disease in cigarette smokers,” revealed Dr. Wilbert S. Aronow, professor of medicine at the University of California Irvine.

In addition, “Exposure to carbon monoxide causes substantial impairments to vital brain and nervous system functions,” according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Addictive Alkaloid

Nicotine is an addictive alkaloid that stimulates the adrenal glands to release catecholamine. These are hormones whose primary substance is adrenaline, which pushes the heart rate and blood pressure into overdrive. For people with coronary-artery disease, it can be fatal. Excessive adrenaline also raises the level of free fatty acids that impair platelets, escalating the formation of blood clots – the agents of cerebral vascular episodes (strokes).

A pregnant smoker smokes for two. Nicotine damages blood vessels in the fetus – and the diminished blood and oxygen supply is cut down by carbon monoxide. According to Dr. Judith Makin of Carleton University in Ottawa, the baby in the womb experiences neuro-psychological disorders. Nicotine triples the risk of stillbirths and miscarriages.

Babies of smoking mothers weigh over six ounces less than normal, and usually die within a month. And for those who survived, the WHO has observed that they were either sickly, retarded or deformed.

Viscous Substance

Tar is a viscous substance formed by the billions of microscopic particles from the1, 200 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Thirty of these chemicals are potentially able to produce malignant tumors by themselves. One particular by-product is beta-napththylamine – the specific cause of bladder cancer.

A landmark joint project by the Reader’s Digest and the think-tank Foster D. Snell Inc. revealed that increased gas and tar intake results from deep inhalation of cigarette smoke even from low-tar brands.

Strong Irritants

Nitrogen oxides (NO2) are strong irritants that act on diaphanous lung tissues. Specifically affected are the macrophages, the detoxifying white cells in the fluid lining of the inner lungs. This is turn damages the delicate walls of the air sacs, leading o emphysema. The first study that established this respiratory chain-reaction was conducted by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has found that some low-tar cigarettes, contrary to public knowledge, have actually higher levels of NO2.

Powerful Corrosive

Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a powerful corrosive that effectively destroys the cilia, the microscopic screening mechanism of the airways. Instead of being expelled from the lungs, HCN coats the bronchial tubes and induce deterioration from within.

A pioneering experiment on the effects of cigarette smoke was conducted by the Arthur D. Little think-yank in Cambridge. Using the still-functioning trachea of a just-slain chicken, it was found out that HCN is the root cause of lung cancer and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Carcinogenic Residues

Other carcinogenic residues in cigarette smoke include aldehydes, alipathic hydrocarbon ketones, aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, hydrocyanic acid, coumarin, nitric oxide, acetone, guaiacol, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, dodecan-5-olide, nona-4-olide, glycyrrhizic acid, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Certain brands use caramel additives for flavor. But when burned with tobacco, they produce cathecol. Cathecol is “the major known co-carcinogen in tobacco smoke,” according to Dr. Dietrich Hoffman of the American Health Foundation.

The chemicals that act as preservatives for tobacco and cigarettes are called humectants. Two major types are glycerol and glycol. When a cigarette is lighted, glycerol is converted to acrolein, which damages the cilia. This doubles the risk of COPD. Meanwhile, “Glycols are suspected to influence the smoker’s risk of bladder cancer,” according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.

Excessive inhalation of cigarette smoke can cause cancer of the lungs, bladder and pancreas. Using as pipe or filters to avoid inhaling limits the cancer to the lip, tongue, mouth, esophagus and larynx. According to Dr. Gio B. Gori from the Smoking and Health Program of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, “The only safe cigarette is one that has not been smoked.”

(Watch video “How To Quit Cigarette Smoking." Photo courtesy of StopSmokingKit. Your comments are welcome and will be answered. You can link your blog with EasyHyperLinks)


Drew said…
Funny enough, in drug rehab you'll find more people smoking per capita concentrated area than anywhere else. A little strange that people aren't trying to quit cigarettes there.
JonathanAquino said…
Stress, I suppose. But then again, they're trying quit drugs, not smoking. The world is such a strange place, indeed.
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