2 years ago

Tobacco smoking claims the lives of approximately 24,000 Australians every year. It is also responsible for a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease, and chronic lung illnesses, to name a few. Importantly, however, it remains the most preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. In light of World No Tobacco Day, here’s everything you need to know about Tobacco, smoking, and why you should quit. 


What is Tobacco? 

Made from dried leaves of a tobacco plant, tobacco contains a toxic and highly addictive chemical called Nicotine. Nicotine is also a stimulant, causing the messages that go between your brain and your body to speed up. It’s not just Nicotine that smokers should be concerned about. Tobacco smoke also contains more than 7,000 chemicals, with at least 250 of these known to be harmful. These include hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. 


With just one puff of a cigarette, these toxic chemicals reach your brain, heart, and everywhere your blood flows – harming every part of your body. It does this in just 10 seconds. 


Risks of Tobacco: Cancer 

Smoking is responsible for most cases of lung cancer. In fact, research has found that smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to not only get lung cancer but die from it, than a non-smoker. Smoking doesn’t just cause cancer in the lungs, it can spread almost anywhere. From the face – lips, tongue, mouth, and nose – through to your throat, stomach, liver, kidney, bladder, and even in your blood – the disease does not discriminate. 


Risks of Tobacco: Asthma and chronic respiratory conditions 

Tobacco contains carbon monoxide which deprives your heart of enough oxygen to pump blood around your body. Eventually, the chemical will cause your airways to swell up, reducing the amount of air that can go into your lungs. This is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Not only does smoking worsen asthma (if you already have it), it can also increase your risk of developing it. 


Risks of Tobacco: Heart health

Smoking is largely responsible for cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. It increases the risk of blood clots, which can stop the flow of blood to the heart, brain or legs. In fact, some smokers end up losing limbs due to issues with blood circulation caused by smoking. 


Risks of Tobacco: Diabetes  

If you smoke, your risk of developing diabetes increases to 30 to 40% compared to a non-smoker. It is also directly responsible for type 3 diabetes and can worsen some of the health conditions caused by type 1 diabetes, such as kidney disease. 


Social impacts 

There are more than just serious health issues to consider when it comes to smoking. Smoking can have detrimental social impacts. Smoking can become an extremely isolating habit, with regulations requiring you to stand well away from events and venues to reduce the risk of passive smoking. Smoking can also greatly impact your appearance, with smokers often having yellow stains on their fingers, tongue, and teeth and increased risk of tooth loss and bad breath.  There are also the financial aspects to consider. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day can cost you more than $10,000 a year.


The benefits of quitting smoking

Every cigarette you don’t smoke is doing you good. Here is a quitting smoking timeline:

  • 20 Minutes: Resting heart rate has reduced
  • 12 hours: Carbon monoxide levels in your blood have decreased along with an increase in your oxygen levels
  • 2 – 12 weeks: Risk of heart attack decreases, circulation is better and you may find exercising easier
  • 1 – 9 months: You cough less and don’t experience shortness of breath as much
  • 1 year: your risk of coronary heart disease has halved compared to someone still smoking.  

To reduce your risk of a significant health problem, your best option is to quit. If you’d like help or more information on the best ways to quit smoking, book an appointment with one of Beach Street Family Practice’s friendly GPs.

Hero image: Lex Guerra via Unsplash