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Dr. Vijayakumar D.R MBBS, DPM, DNB (NIMHANS), CCST (UK)
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Smoking Tobacco

Tobacco USE

What are the ingredients of tobacco smoke?

Cigarette smoke is a composition of gas and small particles. There are over 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke many of which are poisonous and 43 known cancer causing chemicals. 

  1. Nicotine: Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction among smokers. It is one of the most addicting substance and more addicting than heroin. Nicotine is a poison; swallowing one drop of pure nicotine can kill an adult.
  2. Tar:  When a cigarette burns tar is released. It can cause lung and throat cancer in smokers
  3. Carbon monoxide: it is a poisonous gas which is taken up more readily by the lung than oxygen. It is found in the exhaust gas of vehicles.
  4. Cancer causing chemicals include nitrosamines, cadmium, nickel etc
  5. Acetone which is found in nail polish remover
  6. Acetic acid found in vinegar
  7. Ammonia found in floor cleaners
  8. Arsenic a known poison
  9. Butane found in cigarette lighter  fluid
  10. Formalin a tissue preservative
  11. Hydrogen cyanide a poison
  12. Methanol found in rocket fuel
  13. Naphthalene found in moth balls
  14. Toluene an industrial solvent

Point to ponder:  a smoker who consumes an average of 20 cigarettes per day inhales these 4000 substances more than 70,000 times per year.

Next time you see or use a cigarette remember what is getting into your body.

What are the health related issues with tobacco usage?

Tobacco affects all the systems in the body.  Some of the illness caused by tobacco smoking is

  1. Various types of cancers like lung, mouth, esophagus (food pipe), bladder, stomach etc
  2. Smoking is one of the major risk factor for coronary artery disease. It is responsible for at least 20% of deaths due to coronary artery disease.
  3. Arteriosclerosis
  4. Heart failure
  5. Strokes
  6. Decreases the blood supply to the tips of the toes and fingers leading to death of the tips and may lead to amputations. Buerger’s disease)
  7. Can cause sexual dysfunction
  8. Pregnant mothers smoking tobacco can low birth weight infants, higher risk of cleft palate and lip ( opening in the lip and palate due non fusion of the two separate parts )
  9. Lowers the sperm count in men 
  10. Lowers the immune system

What are the effects of smoking?

The effects of smoking will vary from person to person and depends on, 

  • The number of cigarettes smoked per day
  • The age when the person began smoking
  • The number of years of smoking
  • A person’s susceptibility to chemicals in the tobacco

Immediate effects

  • Smoking one cigarette immediately raises the blood pressure and heart rate.  It decreases the blood flow to the body extremities like the figure and toes
  • stimulates the brain for a short time and then reduces
  • causes dizziness,nausea,watery eyes and acidity in the stomach
  • appetite ,taste and smell are altered

Other effects

  • they can experience shortness of breadth, persistent coughs, reduced fitness, yellow stains of the teeth a
  • Lowers the immune system and they are more prone to infections
  • Facial wrinkles appear much earlier

What are the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine (tobacco)?

People who stop smoking suddenly can experience irritability, drowsiness, difficulty in concentrating, anxiety, impaired task functioning, hunger, weight gain, craving, slowing of heart rate.

What is passive smoking?

Passive smoking is the smoke inhaled by others who are around a smoker it is also called environmental tobacco smoke.  Passive smoking can be dangerous and can cause

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Respiratory infections
  • Asthmatic attacks
  • Reduced growth 
  • Chronic obstructive airway disease
  • Cancer 

Point to ponder: Smoking tobacco not only harms the smoker but also causes damage to his near and dear ones especially children. 

What is the treatment for nicotine dependence?

Nicotine dependence is treated with medications as well as therapy


Smokers who want to stop are offered a range of medications like nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion and varenicline tatrate.

Non pharmacological approach also helps smokers quit smoking and it is usually best to combine both.