Adverse effects of smoking

There are certain specific gender related issues that make the need to ‘kick the butt’ more urgent. Read on to know how smoking affects men, women and teenager respectively

By Dr Vasundhra Atre


The cigarette casually hanging from the lip, a macho effect; a lady blowing smoke, gender equality, today’s woman; college students, smoking together, being with it are how the cigarette campaigns advertise the product. 


Imagine, once lit, a cigarette reaches a temperature of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing thousands of chemical compounds, including poisons like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, at least 43 carcinogens, and numerous mutagens. Each time the smoker inhales, all of these are drawn into the body.

Smoking remains one of the leading causes of death. The fact that smoking is injurious to health and can cause respiratory ailments, thickening of the arteries, blood clots, cancer of the lung, cervix, larynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, and kidney, and emphysema, and can cause symptoms such as reduced energy, poor athletic performance, wheezing, coughing, dizziness, and nausea, is common knowledge.

However, there are certain specific gender related issues that make the need to ‘kick the butt’ more urgent. 
 
MEN
  • A new research has revealed that smoking accounts for up to 60% of the gender gap in death rates across Europe, and kills twice as many men as alcohol. Smoking related deaths included respiratory tract cancers, coronary artery disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • A study led by Prof Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychiatry and the Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer Hospital tracked 18 to 21-year-old men enlisted in the Israeli army showed that young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQs than their non-smoking peers.

  • And as for the macho effect, beware the smoker’s droop. Impotence, or penile erectile dysfunction, is the repeated inability to have or maintain an erection. For men in their 30’s and 40’s the risk of erectile dysfunction is increased by around 50%. 

  • Smoking can also reduce the volume of ejaculate, lower the sperm count, be responsible for abnormal sperm shape and impaired sperm mobility

  • Chronic smoking causes constriction of the tiny blood vessels to the penis, which can result in eventual impotence. 

  • Men dread erectile dysfunction, which can lead to breakdown in relationships, anxiety or depression and apparently even after quitting smoking for as little as 24 hours can improve the quality of spontaneous erections and the ability to perform once more.

  • Damaged sperm caused by some of the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes can result in gene mutations that can result in miscarriage, birth defects, cancer, and other health problems for any future children. However, quitting the habit can clear up these possible problems in just two to three months.

WOMEN
It has been found that the highest rate of smoking (27%) occurs amongst women between 25 and 44 years of age. While women smokers suffer all the consequences of smoking that men do which include increased risk of various cancers and respiratory problems, there are certain smoking-related health risks unique to them.
  • Women smokers who use oral contraceptives carry an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. The risk increases with age. It is not advisable for women over 35 who smoke to use oral contraceptives. 

  • During pregnancy the toxic chemicals in tobacco are passed through the blood stream to the foetus, which can potentially harm both the unborn child and the mother. Preterm delivery, low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, placenta previa, miscarriage, and neonatal death, are some of the risks. 

  • Compared to children of non-smoker mothers children born to mothers who smoke suffer from more colds, ear problems and, respiratory problems. 

  • Compared to non-smokers, women who smoke and delay childbirth carry a greater risk of future infertility. 

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is seen 33% more frequently in smokers than in non-smokers. 

  • A woman's risk of early menopause increases three times, when started in the teens. The symptoms of menopause are noticed 2-3 years earlier than non-smokers. 

  • Women who smoke suffer from menstrual problems like abnormal bleeding, absence of periods, and vaginal infections more commonly. 

  • Women who smoke and are on hormone replacement therapy carry an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

  • Women who smoke beware; smoking causes a significant increase in the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
  • Although most of the deaths in women due to ischemic heart disease are in women past menopause, the risk of smoking-related heart disease is significantly higher in young women smokers. A 50% greater risk of heart attack has been reported in women smokers over men smokers. 

  • Smoking may lead to the development of cervical cancer. 

  • A 1994 study published by the American Cancer Society published indicated that breast cancer patients who smoke may increase their risk of dying at least 25%. The risk decreases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.  

  • Women smokers also experience a 40% higher risk of developing vulvar cancer.

  • From the perspective of looks, smoking causes the facial skin to sag, deepening the wrinkles; cause dark circles around the eyes. Constant puckering of the lips can cause deep lines to form. Smoking stains the teeth making them yellow, while causing other dental problems. The lingering smell of stale smoke results in body odour. The fingers tend to become yellow and stained too.

TEENAGERS
Most adults who smoke become addicted to cigarettes as teenagers. Smoking has both short-term and long-term impact on the various body systems in teenagers.
  • Bad breath and other dental problems, such as stained teeth and increased risks for cavities is an immediate effect of smoking on teenagers.

  • The smell of stale cigarettes lingering in the hair, on clothing, and even from the pores of the skin can cause body odour.

  • Smoking gives the skin a pale or yellow look.

  • Premature signs of aging like wrinkles, especially around the lips have been shown to be the effect of smoking in teenagers by the National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health.

  • Compared to non-smoking teens those who smoke have smaller lungs and hearts, which can lead to shortness of breath and persistent coughing.

  • Teenage smokers are more prone to respiratory ailments, such as flu, cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia. 

  • Smoking reduces the level of physical fitness and increases the chances of injury.

  • Smoking also affects the quality of sperm greatly. Teenagers who smoke heavily may never be able to sire children. If they do there is a risk that their children may suffer from various genetic defects.

  • Smoking can also worsen other medical problems.


There are more reasons to quit smoking than continuing. Kick the butt, today.

Picture credit: BCCL

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