Cigarette smoke is a complex mixture of chemicals produced by the burning of tobacco and its additives. The smoke contains tar, which is made up of very many (more than 4,000) chemicals, including over 60 known to cause cancer. Some of these substances cause heart and lung diseases, and all of them can be deadly.
Some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke include; cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol (wood alcohol) and acetylene (the fuel used in welding torches) as well as ammonia.
Cigarette smoke also contains the poison gases nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. The active ingredient that produces the effect people are looking for is nicotine, an addictive drug.
In countries where cigarette smoking is common, smoking causes about 87% of lung cancer deaths. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx (voice box), mouth, pharynx (throat), oesophagus (swallowing tube), and bladder.
It also has been linked to the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, kidney, and stomach and some types of leukemia. Cigars, pipes, and spit and other types of smokeless tobacco all cause cancers too. There is no safe way to use tobacco.
Damage to the lungs begins early in smokers, and cigarette smokers have a lower level of lung function than non-smokers.
This continues to worsen as long as the person smokes. Cigarette smoking causes many lung diseases that can be just as dangerous as lung cancer.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that can make it hard to breathe and can cause serious health problems and sometimes even death.
Chronic bronchitis is a disease where the airways produce too much mucus, forcing the smoker to cough it out. It is a common problem for smokers.
The lungs start to frequently produce large amounts of mucus. The airways become inflamed (swollen) and the cough becomes chronic. It doesn’t get better or go away. Airways get blocked by scars and mucus. Serious infections can also result.
Cigarette smoking is also the major cause of emphysema a disease that slowly destroys a person’s ability to breath.
Oxygen gets into the blood by moving across a large surface area in the lungs. Normally, thousands of tiny sacs make up this surface area. With emphysema, the walls between the sacs break down and create larger but fewer sacs.
This decreases the lung surface area, which lowers the amount of oxygen reaching the blood. Over time, the lung surface area can become so small that a person with emphysema often must gasp for breath.
Shortness of breath especially when lying down, a mild cough that does not go away often termed as smoker’s cough, feeling tired, and sometimes weight loss are early signs of emphysema.
People with emphysema are at risk of many other problems linked to weak lung function, including pneumonia.
In later stages of the disease, patients can only breathe comfortably with the help of an oxygen tube under the nose. Emphysema cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed down especially if the person stops smoking.
Another common problem known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that also describes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema is responsible for many deaths today.
This late stage of chronic lung disease is one of the most miserable of all medical problems. It creates a feeling of gasping for breath all the time, much like the feeling of drowning.
It is also important to further explain why people tend to have inexplicable cough when they are smokers. Cigarette smoke has chemicals that irritate the air passages and lungs.
When a smoker inhales these substances, the body tries to protect itself by making mucus and coughing. The early morning smoker’s cough happens for many reasons.
Normally, tiny hair-like formations called cilia beat outward and sweep harmful material out of the lungs. Cigarette smoke slows the sweeping action, so some of the poisons in the smoke stay in the lungs and mucus stay in the airways.
While a smoker sleeps, some cilia recover and begin working again. After waking up, the smoker coughs because the lungs are trying to clear away the irritants and mucus that built up the day before.
The cilia will completely stop working after they have been exposed to smoke for a long time. Then the smoker’s lungs are even more exposed and prone to infection and irritation.