Cigarette’s are bad for you. Plain and simple. Many people know this, and still continue to smoke. Since the mid-1960’s, the popularity of cigarettes has declined by half. Even so, millions of Americans – as many as 45 million or 20 percent of the country – have a cigarette addiction. More accurately, smoking is not just a bad habit, it is an addiction to nicotine. Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes that makes you want to keep smoking. Just like other addictions, people who are addicted to cigarettes have a compulsive need to smoke and their body craves regular doses of it nicotine. Despite everything we now know about how cigarettes affect a person’s health, thousands of new people begin smoking each year. While the message is reinforced in schools, public health campaigns, hospitals, and just about everywhere, it’s still important to continue to remind people: Cigarette’s kill.
The Disease of Addiction
In relatively recent years, we’ve also learned that addiction is a disease; it’s a medical condition and a mental illness. There are physical differences in the brain of someone with the disease of addiction – let alone cigarette addiction as compared to one without, and so far it cannot be cured. Every year, more than 480,000 people die in the United States due to tobacco-related diseases. That is around 1 in 5 of all deaths in the U.S. annually. It is estimated that 1 in 2 smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. Nicotine addiction should be discussed in the framework of addiction as a disease. Nicotine causes your body and brain to release adrenaline and dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that gives us feeling of pleasure and reward. Nicotine actually changes your brain chemistry in such a significant way that it won’t take long before a casual smoker is experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
History of Cigarettes and Cigarette Addiction
Cigarette’s date back to as early as 4000 BC in South America. Shaman’s used smoking or chewing tobacco in shamanistic rituals. Only hundreds of years later, tobacco was introduced to Europe. Christopher Columbus has been noted as the first European to discover tobacco plants when Native American’s presented him with dry tobacco leaves. However, Columbus didn’t take part in smoking the tobacco. Most of it was thrown overboard until some of the sailors learned from the Aborigines what they did with the leaves and followed by example.
In 1830, cigarettes had crossed into France, where it then received it’s name (cigarette). In 1845 the French state tobacco monopoly began manufacturing them. Juan Nepomuceno Adorno of Mexico first patented a cigarette machine in 1847 although in the 1880’s an additional machine was developed by James Albert Bonsack which increased the productivity of cigarette companies. Manufacturers quickly went from making about 40,000 hand-rolled cigarettes daily to around 4 million.
The use of cigarettes became increasingly widespread after the Crimean War, when British soldiers began emulating Turkish comrades and Russian enemies.
Cigarette Addiction And Substance Abuse
Cigarette addiction causes more deaths among clients in substance abuse treatment than the alcohol or drug use that brings them to treatment. A 11-year retrospective study of 845 people who had been in addiction treatment found that 51 percent of deaths were the result of tobacco-related causes. This rate is twice that found in the general population and nearly 1.5 times the rate of death by other addiction-related causes. Despite the statistics, most substance abuse treatment programs do not address smoking cessation.
Why Is Smoking Bad For You?
Just because smoking is legal doesn’t mean it is good for you. Smoking is the only legal consumer product that kills you when you use it exactly how it’s meant to be used. The tobacco plant consists of nicotine. Nicotine is a poison that can kill a human if even a small amount is injected into the blood-stream. Tobacco smoke contains small amounts of nicotine that aren’t deadly but are still detrimental to our health.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals. When we ingest these chemicals, they stick together in our lungs and create a sticky, dark-colored tar. Additionally, this tar can stick to our clothing and skin.
Some of the chemicals that we ingest when we smoke a cigarette are cancer-causing. Some of them include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen Cyanide
- Sulfur compounds
- Volatile Alcohols
Short-Term Effects of Cigarette Addiction
The short-term effects of tobacco use vary from person to person. How cigarette addiction affects a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking it. The effects of tobacco, as with any drug, also depend on the amount taken. After an individual smokes a cigarette some of the effects that can be immediately felt include:
- Increased alertness
- Feelings of relaxation
- Mild euphoria
- Bad breathe
- Decreased appetite
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Decreased skin temperature
Long-Term Effects of Cigarette Addiction
Even though nicotine can be as addictive as drugs like heroin, or methamphetamine, hardly anyone would argue that cigarette smoking has more negative consequences than shooting up. However, the danger is still severe. In the long-term, smoking cigarettes can lead to many forms of cancer, emphysema, heart and lung diseases, deterioration of eyesight, sexual dysfunction, weakened bones, and more. Cigarette smoking causes more preventable deaths than anything else can can have lasting effects on different parts of an individuals body including:
- Lungs – The lungs are the most obvious part of the body that smoking effects. Smoking alters the airways and air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This can lead to a number of lung issues including “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Often times, lung disease caused by smoking can take months or years to become noticeable. This means that it is not often diagnosed until it is progressively advanced.
- Brain – Smoking can increase the likelihood of having a stroke by 2 to 4 times.
- Bones – Smoking cause cause bones to become weak and brittle resulting in osteoporosis and broken bones.
- Heart – When someone smokes, plaque builds up in the blood. This plaque sticks the the walls of the arteries resulting in them narrowing. This reduces blood flow and increases the risk of clotting. Additionally, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Chemicals in tobacco also increase the chance of heart problems and cardiovascular diseases. Some of these diseases include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart attack
- Immune system – Smoking compromises the immune system and can lead to diseases such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, smoking has been linked to type 2 Diabetes.
- Mouth – Smoking can cause bad breath and stained teeth. Additionally, it damages the sense of taste and presents the risk of gum disease, and tooth loss.
- Skin – Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that can reach the skin, resulting in a speeding of the aging process. By using tobacco it prematurely ages the skin by 10-20 years resulting in facial wrinkling around the eyes and mouth.
- Reproduction – In men smoking can cause impotence due to damaging blood vessels. Women who smoke can find it more difficult to become pregnant. Women who smoke when pregnant can pose a number of health risks to their unborn baby, resulting in:
- Premature birth
- low birth weight
- sudden infant death syndrome
- infant illness
- Vision – Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
- Cancer – Smoking causes around 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancer is the number one cigarette causing cancer and 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. As well as the lungs, smoking is also a risk factor for these types of cancer, among others:
- pharynx (throat)
Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. It is poisonous and has over 4,000 chemicals including 50 that can be linked back to cause cancer. Some of the chemicals in second-hand smoke are:
- Benzopyrene – found in coal tar, one of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals.
- Formaldehyde – used to preserve dead animals.
- Hydrogen cyanide – used in rat poison.
- Ammonia – used to clean floors and toilets.
Two thirds of the smoke from a burning cigarette that enters into the air can be inhaled by anyone in that area. Smoke from one cigarette can stay in a room for hours, even with an open window. Many of the toxic chemicals remain in the air and the carpets, curtains, furniture, and clothes. Air purifiers and ventilation systems may remove some of the smoke, but these may not remove all the toxic chemicals.
Avoiding secondhand smoke can be simple: Avoid being around people who smoke. If you have loved ones or family members that do smoke, try to convince them to quit. Anyone who does smoke should do so outside, as far away from others as possible.
The symptoms of cigarette addiction withdrawal can begin 30 minutes after your last use of tobacco. Symptoms will depend on your level of addiction. Factors such as how long you used tobacco and how much tobacco you use on a daily basis will impact the severity of your symptoms.
Some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can include:
- intense cravings for nicotine
- weight gain
- coughing, sore throat
- tingling of hands and feet
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Quitting smoking is extremely hard. The most commonly used way to quit smoking involves “Nicotine Replacement Therapy” (NRT). NRT reduces withdrawal by giving an individual a small amount of nictotine without adding any dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. This minuscule amount of nicotine can help curb cravings and reduce urges to smoke. NRT is a safe and effective alternate to quit and can be an important part of a smoker’s quitting strategy. Combining NRT with additional strategies can improve the chances of quitting and staying quit.
NRT comes in a variety of forms including:
- Nasal Spray
Tips And Tricks
If you find yourself in a situation where you desire to put the cigarette down, certain activities, times of the day, feelings, and people can be linked to “trigger” your smoking. There are a number of tips that can help prevent you from these:
- Frequent places that don’t allow smoking. Whether that be movie theaters, malls, or parks.
- Spend time with non-smokers. You will not want to smoke as badly if you are around people who don’t smoke.
- Keep your hands busy. Part of the crucial part is that “oral fixation” we have by putting our cigarette to our mouth. Play a game on your phone, eat a healthy snack, or squeeze a stress ball.
- Take a breath. Remind yourself why you want to quit. Think of people who will be happier and healthier because you decided to quit.
Cigarette Smoking in Recovery
Cigarette addiction is even more prevalent in recovering addicts and alcoholics than in the general population; approximately 85 percent of people in recovery smoke cigarettes. Many started smoking cigarettes long before they quit doing drugs or drinking alcohol, and people in recovery often consider cigarette smoking to be the least of their addiction worries. There are many other viewpoints among people in recovery regarding cigarette smoking. Some people believe that you’re not truly in recovery if you’re still addicted to nicotine. Some people think that smoking cigarettes is just a “crutch.” Some people think that without their cigarettes, it’d be a lot harder for them to stay sober.
E-Cigarettes and Vaporizers
Electronic cigarettes, e-cigs and vaporizers have been on the market in the United States for nearly a decade and have gained wider use in recent years. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid — usually containing nicotine mixed with the chemicals polypropylene glycerol and glycerin, and often flavorings ranging from bubble gum to watermelon — into a vapor that users can inhale. They deliver nicotine to the body without producing any smoke.
There’s some encouraging research out there that shows vaping is less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes and contains fewer dangerous toxins than regular cigarettes, and so we’re optimistic. Other early research found some have possible carcinogens and toxic chemicals in the vapor.
Many e-cigarette companies market their product as a tool to help smokers quit. However, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has not approved any e-cigarette as a safe or effective method to help smokers quit. Regardless of how nicotine is delivered it still has effects on the body. Nicotine is a cardiovascular stimulant, and can potentially worsen heart disease in people who already have severe conditions.
Because, E-Cigs and vaporizers are relatively new products, there are many unanswered questions about their safety and health impacts, including questions about their long-term use and effectiveness in helping traditional smokers quit.
The Benefits of Quitting Cigarettes
Quitting smoking can re-wire your brain and help break the cycle of addiction. The large number of nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal levels after about a month of being quit. Some additional benefits of quitting smoking can include:
- Breathing better
- More energy
- Less stress
- Fertility improvement
- Improved smell and taste
- Improved skin
- Whiter teeth and better breath
Minutes after a person quits smoking, your body will begin to repair itself of damages caused by smoking. Here is a timeline of how the body begins to reconstruct itself.
- 20 Minutes After Quitting – Heart rate is back to normal
- 12 Hours After Quitting – Carbon monoxide levels in blood drop back to normal
- 2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting – Heart attack risk drops, and lung function improves
- 1 to 9 Months After Quitting – Coughing and shortness of breathe have decreased
- 1 Year After Quitting – Risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s
- 5 to 15 Years After Quitting – Risk of stroke is half of a smoker’s, risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of a smoker’s.
- 10 Years After Quitting – Risk of lung, bladder, and cervical cancer is half that of a smoker’s.
- 15 Years After Quitting – Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.
Beating Cigarette Addiction
Each year, only 5 percent of smokers successfully quit smoking. The vast majority of people who try to quit smoking will start again in 6-12 months. For most people who quit, it takes two, three, or more attempts. Among people with the disease of addiction, there are few detox, rehab, or treatment centers that require them to quit smoking cigarettes, too. There isn’t a significant push for addicts and alcoholics to quit smoking. Drug or alcohol addiction resources rarely address the seriousness of cigarette addiction, even though most of the tactics that apply to quitting drugs or alcohol and sustaining recovery can apply to cigarette smoking, too. What are your thoughts on cigarette smoking in recovery?
If you are struggling with a cigarette addiction, the experienced staff at Sober Nation are ready to talk you through what is happening in your body and explain the symptoms and sensations that you are experiencing. Medical personnel can also keep your loved ones informed of your status as you go through this process while treating you or your loved one with the compassion and respect they deserve. Some of the expert staff of Sober Nation are recovering from addictions themselves and are an active part of the recovery community around you, so they understand the pain and frustration that you experience. Turn your goal of recovery into reality and call Sober Nation today.
If you feel you or a loved one need help with an addiction, SoberNation provides tools and resources as well as a 24/7 hotline. (866) 207-7436