The facts about smoking

Tobacco comes from the leaves of
the tobacco plant, which contain nicotine – a natural stimulant drug.

Stimulant drugs act on the central
nervous system to speed up messages travelling between the brain and the body.
Nicotine is more addictive than alcohol, heroin and cocaine and addiction to
tobacco can begin with the first drag.

The leaf of the tobacco plant is
dried, cured and aged and then other ingredients are added to manufacture a
range of tobacco-based products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco,
chewing tobacco, and wet and dry snuff.

There are more than 4,000 chemicals
found in tobacco smoke. Many of these are poisonous and at least 43 of them are
cancer causing.

The three major chemicals in
tobacco smoke are: nicotine, a chemical that causes dependence and is commonly
used in pesticides; tar, which is released when a cigarette burns and commonly
used in road surfaces; and carbon monoxide, a very toxic gas, commonly used in
car exhausts.

Other harmful chemicals in tobacco
smoke include: copper, commonly used in electrical wiring; acetone, found in
paint stripper; arsenic, a component in rat poison; radon, a radioactive gas;
and formaldehyde, used in embalming fluid.

The link between smoking and lung
cancer is well known, however, most people are not aware of the large array of
health problems caused by tobacco use.

Bladder, cervical, colorectal,
oesophageal, kidney, laryngeal, leukaemia, liver, oral, ovarian, pancreatic,
pharyngeal, and stomach cancers are caused by, or linked to, the use of tobacco.

The effects of smoking on the
respiratory system include: pneumonia, asthma, persistent cough and chronic
obstructive pulmonary diseases, such emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking also affects the
cardiovascular system. Cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to
develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.

Cigarette smoking approximately
doubles a person’s risk for stroke.

Additionally, smoking places
increased pressure on the heart by the elevating heart rate, leads to increased
blood pressure, and causes stiffening and clogging of the arteries. If smoking
did not exist, there would be 1.62 million fewer cardiovascular deaths in the

Smoking causes reduced circulation
by narrowing the blood vessels and could lead to the amputation of a limb.

Smokers are more than 10 times as
likely as non-smokers to develop peripheral vascular disease – narrowing of
vessels carrying blood to the legs, arms, stomach or kidneys.

Tobacco products can impact a
person’s ability to have a healthy child. Smoking reduces fertility in both and
women; results in more complications during pregnancy, including miscarriages;
and increases the chance of having a baby with birth defects.

Smoking and the contraceptive pill
do not mix – the combination increases the likelihood of heart attack or stroke
by 10.

Other health effects of tobacco

– smoking leads to macular degeneration and cataracts

– smoking can increase the risk of breaking a bone

time – smoking increases recovery time for surgery, wounds and illness

aging – wrinkles at an early age is a side-effect of tobacco use

of the mouth – smoking can be as bad for the teeth as eating too much candy or
not brushing properly, increasing the likelihood of yellow teeth and gum
disease, among others.

Cayman Islands Cancer Society
observed World No Tobacco Day which was marked worldwide on Monday, 31 May.

 This year’s World Health Organisation’s No
Tobacco Day involved a worldwide orchestrated campaign to combat the increasing
targeting of women by tobacco companies. Women are being targeted to become
smokers because they are considered an untapped market, as only 9 per cent of women
smoke, compared to 40 per cent of men. Of the world’s over one billion smokers,
only about 200 million are women, according to the WHO.

The Cayman Island’s Cancer Society
is planning to run courses to help people give up smoking, following the
qualification of numerous volunteers in a smoking cessation course run by Dr.
Elbert Glover in Cayman in May.

For details of upcoming courses or
help in giving up smoking, contact the Cayman Islands Cancer Society on


Smoking leads to a broad range of medical complications.
Photo: File