An estimated 46.5 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes even though this single behavior will result in death or disability for half of all regular users. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year, or one in every five deaths. Additionally, if current patterns of smoking persist, over 5 million people currently younger than 18 will die prematurely from a tobacco-related disease. Paralleling this enormous health toll is the economic burden of tobacco use: more than $75 billion in medical expenditures and another $80 billion in indirect costs.
Women may be especially susceptible to the toxic effects of cigarette smoking, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
They said women who smoke develop lung damage earlier in life than men, and it takes less cigarette exposure to cause damage in women compared with men.
"Overall our analysis indicated that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of smoking," said Dr. Inga-Cecilie Soerheim of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the University of Bergen in Norway.
Nicotine is one of more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke and is the primary component that acts on the brain. Smokeless tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco also contain high levels of nicotine as well as other toxins.
Nicotine is absorbed through the skin and mucosal lining of the mouth and nose or by inhalation into the lungs. Depending on how tobacco is taken, nicotine can reach peak levels in the bloodstream and brain rapidly. Cigarette smoking, for example, results in rapid distribution of nicotine throughout the body, reaching the brain within 10 seconds of inhalation. Cigar and pipe smokers, on the other hand, typically do not inhale the smoke, so nicotine is absorbed more slowly through the mucosal membranes of their mouths, the same as for smokeless tobacco.
A typical smoker will take 10 puffs on a cigarette over a period of 5 minutes that the cigarette is lit. Thus, a person who smokes about 1-1/2 packs (30 cigarettes) daily, gets 300 "hits" of nicotine to the brain each day. These factors contribute considerably to nicotine's highly addictive nature.
Smoking tobacco is the chief avoidable cause of death in our society. Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to contract heart disease - some 170,000 die each year from smoking-related coronary heart disease. Lung, larynx, esophageal, bladder, pancreatic, and kidney cancers also strike smokers at increased rates. Some 30 percent of cancer deaths (130,000 per year) are linked to smoking. Chronic, obstructive lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis are 10 times more likely to occur among smokers than among nonsmokers.
Smoking during pregnancy also poses serious risks. Spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, low birth weights, and fetal and infant deaths are all more likely to occur when the pregnant woman is a smoker.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is thought to cause heart disease. In addition, each year an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer. Exposure to secondhand smoke also causes respiratory tract infections in up to 300,000 children annually.
Consequences of using smokeless tobacco include lung, larynx, esophageal, and mouth cancer. Smokeless tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco are not more safe than cigarettes: they contain many toxins and high levels of nicotine that are readily absorbed through the skin and mucosal lining of the mouth.
TYPES OF SMOKELESS TOBACCO:
Oral (moist) snuff is a finely cut, processed tobacco, which the users places between the cheek and gum, that releases nicotine which, in turn, is absorbed by the membranes of the mouth.
Looseleaf chewing tobacco is stripped and processed cigar-type tobacco leaves that are loosely packed to form small strips. It is often sold in a foil-lined pouch and usually treated with sugar or licorice.
Plug chewing tobacco consists of small, oblong blocks of semi-soft chewing tobacco that often contain sweeteners and other flavoring agents.
Nasal snuff is a fine tobacco powder that is sniffed into the nostrils. Flavorings may be added during fermentation, and perfumes may be added after grinding.
Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, "Spit (smokeless) Tobacco and Kids"
Bidis are cigarettes, primarily made in India, that resemble a marijuana joint. Wrapped in tendu or temburini leaf and secured with a string at one end of the cigarette, this relatively small tobacco product provides a powerful dose of chemicals. Bidis contain more than three times the amount of nicotine and more than five times the amount of tar than regular cigarette smoke. Bidis come in flavored varieties such as strawberry, chocolate, and mango and are subject to complaints by those who believe makers of bidis are trying to appeal to a young audience. The cigarettes also cost less than regular cigarettes: a pack ranges from $1-$3.50