Of all the drug addictions known, nicotine addiction is in some ways, the worst. It kills half its dependent users. More people die from cigarettes than from car accidents, plane crashes, alcohol, and illicit drugs, combined! Compared to heroin, cocaine or alcohol, the chances of quitting and staying quit are poorer. Nicotine and tobacco smoke do most of their damage in the digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. But nicotine addicts suffer from a wide variety of other medical, psychiatric, and social consequences from their drug and its delivery system. As with other forms of addiction, the smoker is often unaware of the full price they are paying for their drug dependence.
Although 20% to 35% of our population now smokes, this proportion has decreased. A shift in attitude is making smoking less socially acceptable.
Health consequences of smoked tobacco
Inhaling a drug provides the most rapid pathway to the brain, faster even than intravenous injection. The faster the delivery system the stronger the compulsion and craving once addiction has occurred. Combustion of dried plant material produces hundreds of toxic and many carcinogenic compounds. Inhaling cigarette smoke delivers this toxic mix directly to the delicate tissues of the aero digestive system. Nicotine, given by other routes, has been shown to cause cardiovascular problems, but compared to the hazards of smoked tobacco, the health consequences of nicotine are significantly less.
Health consequences include:
- cancers of the lips, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs
- cancer of the bowel, kidney, bladder, and breast
- chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema
- coronary artery disease and heart attacks
- peripheral vascular disease causing claudication and gangrene
- increased clotting of blood: stroke and pulmonary emboli
- disordered sleep
- anxiety, irritability, and depression
- vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
- osteoporosis and fractures
- peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel, and hypertension
- decreased fertility
- decrease in fetal size
- sudden infant death syndrome