Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs.
Chemicals associated with cancer
A burning cigarette releases over 4,000 chemicals into the air around you and into your lungs. We are all familiar with the ‘smoking is harmful to your health’ statements but do you actually know what chemicals you are inhaling? You might be surprised at exactly what you are forcing your body to absorb.
Tar is listed on packets as a by-product of smoking and is a sticky brown mix of chemicals that forms a coating on the lungs of smokers. Many smokers believe that by buying low-tar cigarettes they are somehow protecting their health, but actually the majority of chemicals produced by a lit cigarette take the form of gases.
Arsenic, along with cadmium, nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are all produced in cigarette smoke and can inhibit the repair of DNA. Benzene is a solvent used in the manufacture of other chemicals such as petrol. Smokers generally ingest ten times more benzene than non-smokers increasing their likelihood of developing leukaemia.
Formaldehyde is a chemical used to prevent bacteria forming and is often associated with embalming. It is a known carcinogen associated with lung diseases and can affect non-smokers who inhale second-hand smoke. Acrolein also affects the lungs and kills the fine hairs that help to purge the lungs of toxins.
Polonium-210 is a radioactive chemical that can affect the lungs, while hydrazine is usually found in rocket fuel and is highly toxic.
Other harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke
Carbon monoxide deprives the blood cells of oxygen and inhibits the lungs’ ability to clear toxins. Hydrogen cyanide causes damage to the vascular system and also prevents the lungs from clearing up poisons. Nitrogen oxide is found in exhaust fumes and causes damage to the airways. Sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and pyridine all destroy the tiny hairs in the lungs that clear the airways, allowing other chemicals to cause further damage. Ammonia is more commonly used as a toilet cleaner, but in gas form it is known to enhance the amount of nicotine absorbed into the bloodstream, helping to perpetuate the addiction.
Many of these chemicals are harmful enough on their own, but when mixed together they form a potent cocktail that creates further damage to the lungs, circulatory system and bloodstream. The cumulative effect of these substances means that they build up to unhealthy levels over the years, causing more and more damage.
It makes good sense, when studying the list of chemicals present in cigarette smoke, to consider quitting altogether. Unfortunately, nicotine is so addictive that this is generally seen as an impossibility by many hardened smokers who fear that they would fall apart without their nicotine ‘hit’. Fortunately there are plenty of nicotine therapy products available such as patches, chewing gum and even an Electric Cigarette that deliver nicotine to the body without the harmful effects associated with cigarette smoke.
Anyone interested in quitting should seek help from their doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist, all of whom are happy to assist anyone in tackling this addiction. There are many proven books, courses and classes available to help those people who wish to stop smoking, offering practical help and support.