Last updated date: 12-Feb-2023
Originally Written in English
What you might not know about Smoking?
A short history of smoking tobacco
Multiple plants in the genus named Nicotiana of the family Solanaceae are generally known under the name of tobacco, including more than seventy known types. For approximately eight thousand years, tobacco has been growing wild in North America and South America, but human beings only started using it for personal reasons around two thousand years ago. Chewing and smoking tobacco was originally a practice taking place in certain cultural and religious surroundings, such as ceremonies and different types of events.
In Europe, the first individual that has ever used tobacco was Christopher Columbus, a navigator that is mistakenly considered the first to discover America. Europeans only introduced the cultivation of tobacco in 1531 and it quickly developed into a complex industry branch, being used as a monetary standard by the year of 1700.
Tobacco can be consumed using different methods such as smoking, chewing and sniffing. Over time, multiple tobacco products have been invented and commercialized, including cigarettes (the most common), cigars and snus (portioned or loose, which is typically taken by placing it under the upper lip for a certain amount of time). Another popular way of consuming this substance is hookah tobacco, also known as shisha, narghile, maassel or waterpipe, a flavored tobacco type that was invented in India around the 15th century. Due to the constant evolution of technology, this concept led to the development of electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes, mostly known as vapes), these being very popular nowadays because of their wide variety of flavors.
It is not confidential that consumption of tobacco has a strong impact on one’s health state, damaging almost every organ in one’s body and leading to multiple types of diseases, including cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, diabetes and many others. This information has been clearly known for decades, the spread of awareness being supported by numerous campaigns, articles, posters, or other types of information sources, including modern technology ones (social media). In addition to that, the law requires companies that produce and commercialize any type of tobacco products to imprint a text on their packages that can be clearly visible to all customers as a warning regarding health effects on the human body. For example, some of these messages are “Tobacco smoke can harm your children”, “Cigarette smoking is dangerous for your health”, “This product contains nicotine, which is highly addictive” or simply “Smoking kills”.
However, the health consequences of smoking were not known from the beginning, due to the less evolved medical technology system at that time. The first essay ever published about linking tobacco smoking to illnesses was written by an anonymous English author, comparing diseases developed by chimney sweepers and addicted smokers, as they may have similar effects. Later on, Samuel Thomas von Soemmering of Maine discovered a bond between lip cancer and pipe smoking in 1795. Three years later, an American physician wrote about multiple medical risks of tobacco consumption, leading to numerous studies and research by other medical professionals. Eventually, these confirmed in 1960 that tobacco is very dangerous for one’s health.
Modern medical technology and researchers have proven that almost every organ of the body can be damaged due to smoking tobacco. The multiple types of diseases that may be developed make it an extremely unsafe habit. For example, in the United States of America, there are more than 16 million people suffering from an illness caused by smoking. Some of the most common diseases related to tobacco consumption are cancer, heart disease, diabetes, diseases involving the lungs and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Other illnesses may be triggered by smoking, as it improves the chances of development of tuberculosis, eye diseases and immune system issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking may affect everything from fertility to issues regarding the heart, lungs and bones.
Not only smokers are affected by this phenomenon, but people that inhale tobacco smoke too. Secondhand smokers may develop stroke, lung cancer and heart disease only by being around a lit cigarette and inhaling its smoke. Even though it seems less harmful than smoking, passive smoking leads to a yearly total of approximately 41.000 deaths among adults and 400 among infants. Children are strongly affected by inhaling tobacco smoke, risking developing acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, a severe type of asthma or underdeveloped lungs.
7 facts about tobacco smoking
- Researchers confirmed that development of osteoporosis may be triggered by smoking tobacco. This is a medical condition that increases the risk of bone fractures, as the bones get unusually weak.
- Blood flow is also affected by this practice as well, as it is more likely to clot due to increased pressure and the arteries carrying blood to the heart may slowly narrow down over time. Considering this, smokers have higher chances of having a heart attack.
- The unusually reduced blood flow described above may also lead to erectile dysfunction in men who smoke regularly. At the same time, women may experience fertility problems or certain issues during pregnancy. Smoking may affect this by increasing the risk of having a miscarriage or premature birth, as well as affecting the general health of the newborn baby.
- It is well known that women get menopause around the age of 50, when female hormones decline. However, women that have smoked regularly for a very long period of time may experience an early menopause, the strength of the effect depending on the addiction levels.
- No matter the way they take tobacco products, consumers are more likely to develop oral cancer, compared to non-smokers, especially when alcohol consumption is involved as well. The main symptoms are described as sore, sometimes painful patches on areas of the mouth such as tongue, lips and gums.
- Another type of cancer that is very likely to develop in smokers is lung cancer, in which nine out of ten deaths are caused by smoking. Lungs are extremely vulnerable to this habit, as other issues may occur, including breathing difficulties and lung infections such as pneumonia.
- As both heart and lungs are very likely to develop certain conditions, this could be a remarkable disadvantage while exercising or engaging in different sports activities. The unusual rapid heartbeat, poor blood flow and shortness of breath usually leads to difficulties in athletic performances.
How smoking tobacco affects physical appearance?
Looks can significantly be affected by smoking, as tobacco modifies the way human skin, teeth and hair appear, making one look older than their real age.
- Poor skin tone- as smoking decreases oxygen and nutrients levels of the skin, its color may be unusual. Some smokers tend to be paler and others develop uneven coloring of their skin.
- Sagging skin- collagen and elastin are fibers that offer strength and elasticity to the skin. These might be damaged by the numerous chemical types in tobacco smoke ( more than 4000), leading to sagging skin or unusually deep wrinkles, making the smoker appear older.
- Sagging arms and breasts- excluding the face, skin covering other body parts may also be damaged, as the elasticity of the skin decreases. These include inner arms and breasts.
- Lines around the lips- the loss of elasticity described above and the fact that people use certain muscles around the lips in order to smoke lead to specific dynamic wrinkles in this area that non-smokers do not develop.
- Age spots- A smoker’s face and hands may tend to be covered in spots of a darker color tone, similar to the ones developed from sunbathing.
- Issues regarding teeth and gums- apart from the yellowish color of the teeth due to smoking, other dental damage may occur, such as gum diseases and constant bad breath, as well as other problems involving oral hygiene. Some researchers believe that smokers’ chances of losing teeth are twice higher than non-smokers.
- Stains on fingers- while smoked, the cigarette has the ability to stain the skin covering the fingers, but it may slowly fade overtime after one stops smoking.
- Hair loss- Studies show that smoking can accelerate the process of hair loss, suggesting that some addicted smokers might even go bald because of this.
- Vision problems- some researchers confirmed that cataracts can be developed due to smoking: blurry areas on the lens, as an obstacle for the light to reach the retina of a human eye.
- Psoriasis- it is described as a chronic condition causing thick white, red or silver patches on the surface of the skin on multiple body parts, such as knees and elbows, hands, feet and scalp. It is believed that this medical skin condition is related to smoking, as they have higher chances of developing it.
Types of smokers
It is believed that tobacco is used for personal purposes, as people say it helps with stress relief, increases pleasure and improves social situations. Therefore, there are several types of smokers, depending on the reason why they consider they cannot quit.
- Anxious smokers – Some people say that they can physically feel a wave of relaxation while smoking, calming them down when they feel anxious and stressed. However, multiple studies confirmed that smokers do have a higher stress level than non-smokers, which is why researchers tend to consider this a paradox and are still studying the effects of tobacco and nicotine in order to fully understand this phenomenon. One of the theories they developed over time stands that even though nicotine may stimulate pleasure centers in the human brain (causing stress-relief and relaxation), it also has the ability to disturb other body systems.
- Skinny smokers – it has been confirmed that smoking is strongly linked to weight loss, as properties of nicotine include curbing one’s appetite. Typically, a person that starts smoking regularly can lose weight (an average of five to ten pounds), regaining it right after quitting, returning to their original body weight. This is another reason why people either start smoking in the first place or fear renouncing this habit.
- Addicted smokers- last but not least, nicotine is a very addictive substance, meaning that people that regularly smoke do it in order to fulfill a physiological “necessity”. It is the most common aspect presented in anti-smoking campaigns, as individuals that are addicted to nicotine are more likely to develop cancer, heart disease and multiple other illnesses that are extremely dangerous.
Quitting smoking tobacco
Professionals agree that quitting smoking is a very difficult process, especially with individuals that have been smoking regularly for a longer period of time that have a higher addiction level than other smokers, yet it is not impossible.
There is no unique way to quit that works for everyone, as there are numerous smoking cessation strategies. Some people need to attempt quitting more than once and very few of them succeed without asking for help.
First of all, it is important to acknowledge the reason why quitting may be difficult, depending on the type of smoker. For example, anxious smokers can try reducing their stress levels using other strategies that are healthy for their bodies, such as yoga or breathing exercises, as well as avoiding stressful situations, trying to relax more, getting a massage or simply listening to good music. Strictly regarding stress and feeling anxious, these practices may be way more effective then nicotine. For skinny smokers, there are, of course, numerous methods of losing and maintaining body weight that are not dangerous for the human body, also improving the quality of life. These mostly involve following a healthy dietary plan and exercising regularly. This way, some smokers only need to replace their habit with a healthier one that fulfills their necessities and meet their goals.
As mentioned before, the main issue remains quitting when no other reason is involved other than pure nicotine addiction.
- Finding a personal reason is the first step in attempting to quit. Most of the time, feeling pressured by family or friends is not helpful at all, as it takes a lot of personal motivation to succeed. One that describes themselves strongly addicted to this type of substance needs to be mentally and emotionally prepared for this huge step in their life. The reason could be protecting the loved ones from passive-smoking complications, financial issues, reducing the risks of developing certain diseases, simply the desire to feel and look younger and healthier or any other reason that feels suitable for the individual.
- Picking a date to give up tobacco and sticking to it may be useful. Before this day, there are several methods designed to help prepare for this step. These could be quit-smoking classes or apps, as well as counseling, or hypnosis. Informing friends, family members and other loved ones about the desire to quit may lead to emotional support, as they could help through the process. Different types of medication may have the ability to curb cravings and decrease the levels of satisfaction caused by smoking.
- The craving for a nicotine buzz may be very intense. Therefore, there are other nicotine products available that could ease the process of quitting smoking. Nicotine gum, lozenges and nicotine patches are great examples that may improve one’s chances of success.
- Avoiding alcohol consumption and other triggers is a great factor as well. People say that cigarettes go well with certain drinks such as alcoholic ones or coffee. As alcoholic beverages make it more difficult to stick to the goal, it is recommended to avoid this substance while trying to quit. When it comes to coffee, it could be replaced with tea for a short amount of time, at least until the individual does not feel a very intense desire to light up a cigarette with it. In the same manner, other people made it a habit to smoke right after meals or snacks. In this case, it is important to create a new healthier routine, replacing this habit with something else, such as brushing one’s teeth or chewing gum.
- Typically, when an individual decides to start a quit-smoking program, they also feel the need to switch to a general healthy lifestyle, involving more physical activities and healthy dietary plans. Even though it is not recommended to follow a strict diet in the process of smoke cessation as it could be too much pressure for the emotional side, including more fruits and veggies to daily meals may be very motivating. Studies show that being active, starting working out and involving in different sports can curb nicotine cravings and decrease withdrawal symptoms. As a bonus, this helps with maintaining a healthy body weight, as it is known that people gain a few pounds after quitting.
- Another essential step is to try avoiding cigarette smell, as it is recommended to clean the carpets, draperies or other objects around the house that might remind someone of smoking. Other strategies include washing all the clothes that smell like cigarettes, using an air freshener for the house and car and getting rid of ashtrays and lighters. This way, all the memories regarding smoking may slowly fade, as it needs to feel like a fresh start.
- Other than the well-known health benefits, quitting smoking has a great financial effect, as nicotine and tobacco products are quite expensive. Considering this, all the money that is saved can be invested in something else, which one may consider a reward. Some people recommend using an envelope to keep all the money that they would’ve spent on cigarettes, as watching the total increase may be very satisfying.
Even though the process is very difficult, quitting smoking tobacco improves one’s life in numerous ways. The health benefits are almost immediate, as the heart rate goes back to normal within twenty minutes after smoking the last cigarette. After about twenty-four hours, carbon monoxide levels in the human blood restore as well. Later on, in only two to three weeks, the chances of having heart attacks lower significantly, followed by lower odds of developing cancer in the long run. Senses of taste and smell improve remarkably and one that has completely stopped smoking may feel healthier and look better.
Even though the benefits of smoking cessation are very numerous, the first days after quitting may not be very easy, as there are several withdrawal symptoms that may feel like an obstacle, sometimes leading to relapsing. As the body is used to a regular dosage of nicotine, certain effects may occur: craving cigarettes, being observably irritable, feeling very hungry most of the time, couching, finding it difficult to concentrate and getting unexpected headaches. All these are signs that the body is slowly healing, all known as smoker’s flu.
However, it is important to remember that withdrawal symptoms are only temporary and even though they may feel very intense at the beginning, they typically ease after the first ten days to two weeks. This challenge is not impossible to overcome knowing that withdrawal symptoms are easier to treat than most diseases caused by smoking.
It is never too late to quit smoking in order to improve your health quality, even when you have smoked your entire life! Even the smallest amounts of cigarettes can have severe effects on one’s health, damaging blood vessels and its flow, causing heart attacks and stroke.
Modern electronic cigarettes are also dangerous, containing damaging chemicals and substances that are linked to lung disease, so even if they are considered less harmful, they are not completely safe. The same goes for light cigarettes, which are sometimes thought to be healthier than regular ones, yet that is only a marketing strategy, the cigarettes having the exact same properties and risk factors.
Consider using other smokeless nicotine products designed to help in the process of smoke cessation, such as nicotine patches and gum, are not harmful. Even though nicotine is an addictive substance, the smoke contains most of the chemicals leading to severe diseases. Considering this, smokeless nicotine products are not associated with any types of cancer, respiratory issues or heart disease.