May be you already know what smoking does to your body. You’ve heard that smoking causes diseases. Even the warning label on the cigarette pack says how dangerous it is. But you see a lot of healthy-looking people who smoke. They don’t look as if they have cancer or heart disease. And most of the people who get sick are so much older than you.
When 40-years-old people get cancer or heart disease from smoking, they think: “I wish I had never started smoking”. Of course, then it’s too late.
The earlier you start smoking, the earlier you can die from smoking-related illness.
To understand how terrible smoking is for you, look what each cigarette contains:
- Nicotine – a habit-forming drug
- Black tars that stick to the lining of your lungs and make it hard to breathe
- Carbon Monoxide and chemicals that position your lungs.
Every drag on a cigarette leaves those things in your lungs.
Nicotine speeds up your heart beat. It makes your nerves shaky. In large doses, it is poisonous. You quickly become addicted to it.
The tars coat the inside of your lungs, making it harder to breathe. Your heart has to work harder because it is not getting enough oxygen from your stuffed-up lungs.
Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from getting to your heart. That can cause heart disease.
How does smoking affect your body? Your body is like a sensitive machine. Its parts work together to keep you healthy. When you smoke, you damage many parts of that machine. This makes it break down and soon, the machine stops working.
When you smoke, you make breathing more difficult. Try running up the staircase and you might find yourself breathing very heavily and your heart racing.
There are pictures that can show you what happens when you smoke. Surgeons who operate on smokers say that the lungs are black from tar.
Nicotine, the drug in the tobacco paralyses your cilia (tiny balloon-like sacs in the lungs that brush mucus out of airways). The cilia can’t push the mucus out the way. Your airways get clogged. Tars and chemicals settle in the airways and the cilia die. The smoker has to cough to get the mucus out the lungs. That is “ smoker’s cough”. It sounds like someone choking and wheezing. The bronchi (those tubes in your lungs) get sore with all that coughing. The smoker then develops “chronic bronchitis”. It becomes more painful and difficult to breathe.
People who smoke for a long time may get cancer. The chemicals and tars in cigarette make the body cells grow out of control; they form lumps which blocking breathing.
Smoking is also very hard on the heart. The lungs, heart, and blood vessels all work together. When you smoke, you breathe in nicotine and carbon monoxide, the nicotine and carbon monoxide make the blood vessels smaller. Less oxygen gets to the heart, so the heart has to work harder. Heart disease causes heart attacks.
However, there is one piece of good news. As soon as you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself, but you need to know that the sooner you stop smoking, the less damage you will do to your body.
Special Health Risks for Women
Smoking is dangerous to everybody, but there are risks peculiar to women only. If you smoke and take birth control pills, you are TEN TIMES MORE LIKELY than average to have a heart attack or stroke. Smoking increases the risk of heart attack for young women more than any other factor. You don’t have to be old to have a heart attack.
Remember the warning label: “Smoking by pregnant women may result in fatal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight”.
Babies of mothers who smoke have twice the risk of having the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which kills babies suddenly in their sleep. Also, the babies of smokers have twice as many lung illness-like bronchitis and pneumonia, as babies of non-smoking gives you wrinkles and makes your skin look unhealthy.
Why should you worry about that now? It may not seem important to you yet. But once you start smoking, it is very, very hard to stop. When you become a mother, you may still be smoking.
Elizabeth Keyishian (1993) Everything You Need To Know About Smoking, Rosen Publishing Group, New York.